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New legal fight over U.S. antiterror tactics

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Mr. Iqbal filed suit in federal court in Brooklyn against a range of US officials who he says were responsible for his alleged abusive treatment. His suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages not only against the prison officials who he says personally beat and abused him but also against their supervisors – including then-Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller.

Government lawyers asked that the suit be thrown out. But a federal judge and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York have allowed the case to move forward.

Three different appeals were filed on behalf of various government supervisors asking the Supreme Court to take up the case and dismiss the lawsuit.

One was filed on behalf of Ashcroft and Mueller. The Bush administration asked that the other two appeals be held without action, pending the outcome of the Ashcroft/Mueller case. The two other appeals were filed on behalf of Dennis Hasty, a former warden of the Brooklyn prison, and three senior supervisors with the federal Bureau of Prisons.

In addition, the justices also considered taking up a similar appeal involving a class action lawsuit against supervisors at a maximum security psychiatric hospital in California filed by violent sex offenders being held there. That appeal, like the two other Iqbal appeals, are presumably being held by the court pending its decision in the Ashcroft/Mueller case. The court does not routinely announce whether it is holding cases.

Case to be heard next term

Oral argument in the Ashcroft/Mueller case is expected to be heard during the court's 2008-09 term, which begins in October. The other three cases are Hasty v. Iqbal, Sawyer v. Iqbal, and Hunter v. Hydrick.

At issue in all four appeals is how much evidence must be produced to defeat claims of qualified immunity by supervisors who say they had no personal involvement in or knowledge of alleged abusive treatment of prisoners.

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