The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review a Ninth Circuit ruling that said former AG John Ashcroft can be held personally liable for the DOJ's alleged misuse of the material witness statute. The justices will be checking the work of Judge Milan Smith Jr., a George W. Bush appointee, who held his ground earlier this year when eight colleagues called, unsuccessfully, for en banc review.
Plaintiff Abdullah Al-Kidd,a former running back for the University of Idaho who later converted to Islam, was arrested while heading to Saudi Arabia to study Arabic and Islamic law and imprisoned for 16 days and his movements restricted for 15 months. By then, he'd lost his job and his wife, according to Smith's panel ruling. He was never accused of any crime.
Judge Ronald Gould, a Clinton appointee, writing for himself and six others in March, fretted that Smith's ruling may make it harder to attract qualified attorneys general. Smith countered that the government was paying Ashcroft's legal fees, and would probably indemnify him. Smith added: "The truth is that there are legions of highly qualified attorneys who would gladly abandon almost any other position for the opportunity to serve as attorney general of the United States," Smith wrote. "But it is critically important that whoever serves in that position be dedicated to the rule of law, and to upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States."