Padilla v. Yoo

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 05-02-2012
  • Case #: 09-16478
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fisher for the Court; Circuit Judge N. R. Smith and District Judge Pallmeyer
  • Full Text Opinion

A government official is entitled to qualified immunity unless, at the time of their actions, the law is "sufficiently clear that every reasonable government official would have understood that what he was doing violated the plaintiff's rights."

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the government detained Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, under the material witness statute, and later charged him with unrelated crimes. Padilla alleges that during his detainment he was "held incommunicado in military detention, subjected to coercive interrogation techniques and detained under harsh conditions of confinement." Petitioner brought suit against John Yoo, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the USDOJ Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003, alleging Yoo's conduct at OLC was directly responsible for petitioner's alleged unlawful treatment. Yoo appeals the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss, arguing, inter alia, that he is entitled to qualified immunity. Citing Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, decided after the district court's decision, the Court found that the law at the time Yoo acted was not "sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he was doing violated the plaintiff's rights." Padilla relied on cases involving ordinary prisoner and criminal settings, but the Court found that, as suggested in Ex parte Quirin, Padilla's status as an "unlawful combatant" may afford "him lesser rights than ordinary prisoners or individuals in ordinary criminal settings." Petitioner also relies on the plurality decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, suggesting that a "citizen detained as an enemy combatant retains a fundamental right to be free from involuntary confinement without due process of law." The Supreme Court, however, decided Hamdi in 2004, which did not put Yoo on clear notice of Padilla's constitutional rights in 2001-03." REVERSED.

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