Zigler v. Abbasi

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Qualified Immunity
  • Date Filed: June 19, 2017
  • Case #: 15-1358, 15-1359, and 15-1363
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, IV–A, and V, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS and ALITO, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part IV–B, in which ROB- ERTS, C. J., and ALITO, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concur- ring in part and concurring in the judgment. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined. SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and GORSUCH, JJ., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Bivens decision, a federal official cannot be sued for damages as to detention policy claims. Further, under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), a federal official is entitled to qualified immunity if a reasonable official in the same situation would not know their conduct constituted an unlawful conspiracy.

Respondents, six men of Arab and Asian decent residing illegally in the U.S., were among a number of aliens detained under the “hold-until-cleared policy” in the Administrative Maximum Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC”) in Brooklyn, NY for months in harsh living conditions. After their release, they were subsequently removed from the U.S. Respondents then filed suit personally and on behalf of a class seeking damages, attorney’s fees, and costs against Petitioners, the wardens and executive officials in charge of implementing this policy, based on constitutional violations. The district court dismissed all claims against the executive officials, but not against the wardens. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed in part, except that they reversed the decision to allow a prison abuse claim to be brought against one of the wardens.  The U.S. Supreme Court then granted certiorari to decide whether: 1) petitioners could be sued for damages in light of Bivens without congressional authority, and 2) “a reasonable officer in petitioners’ position would have known the alleged conduct was an unlawful conspiracy.” The Court determined that: 1) Petitioners could not be sued as to the detention policy claims, and 2) the alleged conduct would not have caused a reasonable officer in the same position to know it constituted an unlawful conspiracy. The Court also remanded the prison abuse claim because the issue had not been properly briefed. REVERSED in part, VACATED and REMANDED in part. 

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