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Appeals court lets stand decision that Ashcroft can be sued

March 18, 2010 | 12:26 pm

The full Western appeals court voted Thursday to let stand its September decision that former U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft is not immune from a civil action charging that he violated a Kansas-born Muslim convert's constitutional rights by having him arrested without probable cause.

Ashcroft had petitioned the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for rehearing of his claim of immunity, which was denied in the 2-1 ruling six months ago that Abdullah Kidd could proceed with his lawsuit.

Kidd, a former University of Idaho running back whose birth name was Lavoni T. Kidd, claims in his suit that Ashcroft‘s policy of using material witness warrants to detain those suspected of terrorist ties subjected him to unreasonable search and seizure and denied him due process of law. Kidd lost his security clearance and his government contractor job after his March 2003 arrest and 16-day detention for interrogations in Virginia, Oklahoma and Idaho.

In the September ruling by the split three-judge panel, the majority characterized Ashcroft’s alleged detention policy as “repugnant to the Constitution, and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history.”

Thursday’s vote to deny rehearing by an 11-judge panel included a dissent signed by eight of the court’s 26 active judges, an action likely to draw the attention and review of the U.S. Supreme Court before Kidd's suit can go to trial.

-- Carol J. Williams