Abdullah al-Kidd v. John Ashcroft, et al. Decided

September 27, 2012

Whether John Ashcroft can be sued for damages based on the claim that, while Attorney General, he authorized the detention of criminal suspects without probable cause by misusing the material witness statute.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits the arrest of criminal suspects without probable cause. In this case we allege that our client, a former football player at the University of Idaho, was arrested on a material witness warrant pursuant to a policy implemented by John Ashcroft after 9/11 to use the material witness statute as a means of detaining individuals for investigative purposes without probable cause to believe that they’d committed a crime. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether John Ashcroft is immune from damages even assuming that these allegations are true. Our client was never called to testify and never criminally charged.

Case Timeline

March 15, 2005: The ACLU files suit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the United States, individual FBI agents, and the wardens of the correctional facilities in which Mr. al-Kidd was held, seeking damages for Mr. al-Kidd’s unconstitutional detention and the inhumane conditions in which he was held.

September 2006: The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho denies in major part the individual defendants’ motions to dismiss, holding that all but one of Mr. al-Kidd’s claims, including his claims against Ashcroft, may go forward.

March 2008: The action against the warden of the federal Oklahoma facility is settled for monetary relief.

August 2008: The action against the Virginia warden is settled for monetary relief and institutional reforms by the Alexandria jail.

August 2009: The action against the Idaho warden is settled for monetary relief and institutional reforms by the Ada County Jail.

September 2009: In a decision that demonstrates that high-level government officials may be held accountable for unconstitutional policies they implemented in the aftermath of September 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rules that Mr. al-Kidd’s claim that Ashcroft bears responsibility for his wrongful detention may go forward.

October 2009: Ashcroft files a petition asking all of the judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear his appeal.

March 2010: 9th Circuit denies Ashcroft's request for full court review.

October 2010: Supreme Court agrees to hear Ashcroft's appeal of the case.

March 2011: Supreme Court hears arguments in Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft

Statistics image