Ziglar v. Abbasi (formerly Turkmen v. Ashcroft)

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

April 1, 2002

Current Status 

The case is pending before the Supreme Court, where it will be argued on January 18, 2017.

 

Co-Counsel 

Covington & Burling LLP, Michael Winger

Client(s) 

Ibrahim Turkmen, Akil Sachveda, Anser Mehmood, Benamar Benatta, Ahmed Khalifa, Saeed Hammouda, Purna Bajracharya, Ahmer Abbasi

Case Description 

Ziglar v. Abbasi (changed from Turkmen v. Ashcroft in November 2016) is a civil rights lawsuit filed in 2002 on behalf of a class of Muslim, South Asian, and Arab non-citizens swept up by the INS and FBI in connection with the 9/11 investigation. Based solely on their race, religion, ethnicity, and immigration status, hundreds of men were detained as “terrorism suspects” and held in brutal detention conditions for the many months it took the FBI and CIA to clear them of any connection to terrorism. They were then deported.

The case seeks to hold accountable high-level Bush administration officials, including former-Attorney General John Ashcroft and former-FBI Director Robert Mueller, for their role in ordering racial and religious profiling and abuse in detention, in violation of the detainees’ rights under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments. Our clients were held in a specially-created Administrative Maximum Special Housing Unit (ADMAX SHU), in solitary confinement. They were purposefully deprived of sleep, denied contact with the outside world, beaten and verbally abused, and denied the ability to practice their religion. The former wardens and other Metropolitan Detention Center officials who oversaw this abuse are also named in the case.

Ziglar v. Abbasi seeks compensatory and punitive damages for our clients and fits into CCR’s larger fight for immigrant rights, government accountability, and against illegal detentions and prisoner abuse.

 

Case Timeline

November 18, 2016
Defendants file their merits briefs with the Supreme Court
November 18, 2016
Defendants file their merits briefs with the Supreme Court
Defendants Ashcroft, Hasty, Sherman and Ziglar file their merits briefs with the Supreme Court, along with the joint appendix.
October 11, 2016
Supreme Court grants defendants' petition for cert
October 11, 2016
Supreme Court grants defendants' petition for cert
Cert petition granted. Justices Sotomayor and Kagan recuse themselves.
August 23, 2016
Defendants file reply briefs in further support of their cert petition
August 23, 2016
Defendants file reply briefs in further support of their cert petition
In late August, Defendants file their reply briefs in further support of their petition for cert, and in response to CCR's opposition brief.
August 8, 2016
CCR files brief opposing defendants' petitions for cert
August 8, 2016
CCR files brief opposing defendants' petitions for cert
CCR files its brief opposing defendants' petition to be heard before the Supreme Court.
May 9, 2016
Defendants file petitions for cert
May 9, 2016
Defendants file petitions for cert
Defendants Hasty, Ashcroft, Mueller, Ziglar, and Sherman file their petitions for certiorari, arguing for their case to be heard before the United States Supreme Court.
December 11, 2015

Second Circuit denies government's petition for rehearing en banc

December 11, 2015

Second Circuit denies government's petition for rehearing en banc

Six judges vote to rehear the case, and six vote to let the decision stand; a majority is required to rehear a case, so the decision stands.
September 11, 2015

CCR responds to defendants’ petitions for rehearing en banc

 

September 11, 2015

CCR responds to defendants’ petitions for rehearing en banc

 

After being ordered to respond by the Second Circuit, CCR files a brief explaining why the Second Circuit’s landmark June 17 ruling was correct and does not require reconsideration by the entire circuit court.  

August 14, 2015

Defendants seek rehearing en banc

August 14, 2015

Defendants seek rehearing en banc

Ashcroft, Mueller, and Ziglar, along with the federal employees who ran the MDC during the time the 9/11 detainees were held, ask the entire Second Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case. They argue that people should not be able to sue high-level government officials individually for creating unconstitutional policies.

June 17, 2015

Second Circuit rules in CCR’s favor, reinstates claims against high-level officials

June 17, 2015

Second Circuit rules in CCR’s favor, reinstates claims against high-level officials

The court reinstates claims against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller, and former INS Commissioner James Ziglar for their roles in the post-9/11 immigration detentions, abuse, and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men. It is exceedingly rare for a court to allow claims against such high-level officials to proceed.

May 1, 2014
Oral argument in Second Circuit Court of Appeals
May 1, 2014
Oral argument in Second Circuit Court of Appeals
CCR attorney Rachel Meeropol urges the federal court of appeals to allow the case to go forward against high-level Bush administration officials alleged to have ordered the post-9/11 immigration sweeps, detention, and racial and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men.
January 15, 2013
Court grants in part and denies in part motions to dismiss
January 15, 2013
Court grants in part and denies in part motions to dismiss

The judge allowed the 9/11 detainees’ claims to proceed against the MDC supervisors and staff members who were directly responsible for the harsh conditions of confinement and abuse. However, the judge dismissed our claims against the high-level officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft.    

March 11, 2011
Oral arguments on defendants' motions to dismiss heard before district court Judge Gleeson
March 11, 2011
Oral arguments on defendants' motions to dismiss heard before district court Judge Gleeson

CCR argues the suit meets the standards for holding federal officials accountable for civil rights violations articulated in the 2009 Supreme Court case Ashcroft v. Iqbal, a case also involving mistreatment of post-9/11 detainees. In that case the high court ruled that the plaintiff’s pleadings were not specific enough to bring an equal protection claim against high-level government officials.

December 23, 2010
CCR files opposition to defendants' motions to dismiss
December 23, 2010
CCR files opposition to defendants' motions to dismiss
November 12, 2010
Defendants each move to dismiss fourth amended complaint
November 12, 2010
Defendants each move to dismiss fourth amended complaint
Defendants Salvatore LoPresti, Dennis Hasty, Michael Zenk, James Sherman, James Ziglar, and John Ashcroft file separate motions to dismiss the fourth amended complaint.
September 13, 2010
CCR files fourth amended complaint
September 13, 2010
CCR files fourth amended complaint

The complaint adds as potential class representatives six new plaintiffs: Ahmer Iqbal Abbasi, Anser Mehmood, Benamar Benatta, Ahmed Khalifa, Saeed Hammouda, and Purna Raj Bajracharya. It also adds new detail about the involvement of the high-level defendants, including former attorney general John Ashcroft, in the conditions and abuse.

December 18, 2009

Second Circuit issues opinion affirming district court's dismissal of our claims regarding prolonged detention

December 18, 2009

Second Circuit issues opinion affirming district court's dismissal of our claims regarding prolonged detention

The court vacates the balance of the district court’s decision regarding abusive conditions of confinement and remands the case to the district court to consider CCR's motion to amend the complaint and to apply the new pleading standard created in Iqbal v. Ashcroft

November 3, 2009
Five plaintiffs held at MDC settle claims
November 3, 2009
Five plaintiffs held at MDC settle claims

CCR announces that the five MDC plaintiffs have settled their claims against the United States for $1.26 million. At the same time, CCR seeks permission from the district court to amend the complaint to add five new plaintiffs.

July 21, 2009

Turkmen parties file supplemental briefs regarding Supreme Court's decision in Iqbal

May 18, 2009

Supreme Court rules in Iqbal v. Ashcroft

May 18, 2009

Supreme Court rules in Iqbal v. Ashcroft

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court holds that Iqbal had not included enough facts in his complaint to plausibly allege that former Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller had a role in his discriminatory confinement and abuse. This decision has far-reaching implications for pleading standards.

October 31, 2008

Turkmen plaintiffs file amicus brief in Supreme Court in support of plaintiffs in Iqbal v. Ashcroft

October 31, 2008

Turkmen plaintiffs file amicus brief in Supreme Court in support of plaintiffs in Iqbal v. Ashcroft

Iqbal v. Ashcroft is a companion case to Turkmen brought on behalf of one non-citizen rounded up after 9/11, held on criminal charges, and abused in the same facility as many of the Turkmen plaintiffs. After the Supreme Court grants cert in Iqbal v. Ashcroft, the Turkmen plaintiffs file an amicus brief urging the Court to deny attempts by the high-level officials to avoid accountability. That brief provides the Supreme Court with never-before released documents gleaned through discovery, showing the involvement by former-Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller in the post-9/11 sweeps.

February 14, 2008
CCR attorney Rachel Meeropol argues appeal before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
February 14, 2008
CCR attorney Rachel Meeropol argues appeal before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
April 12, 2007
DOJ announces criminal indictments against 11 current and former MDC employees, including three Turkmen defendants
April 12, 2007
DOJ announces criminal indictments against 11 current and former MDC employees, including three Turkmen defendants
The defendants were charged with physical attacks against MDC prisoners (not the 9/11 detainees) occurring between 2002 and 2006. Several defendants pled guilty, and others went to trial. Ten of the 11 defendants are ultimately convicted.
April 7, 2007
Three amicus briefs filed in support of CCR's appeal
April 7, 2007
Three amicus briefs filed in support of CCR's appeal

Three amicus briefs are filed, by Karen Korematsu, immigration law professors, and former wardens.

January 24, 2007
Cross appeal to Second Circuit Court of Appeals
June 14, 2006
Judge Gleeson in Eastern District of New York issues opinion on government's motion to dismiss
June 14, 2006
Judge Gleeson in Eastern District of New York issues opinion on government's motion to dismiss

After several years, Judge Gleeson decides the pending motions to dismiss. The judge dismisses the claims challenging our clients' prolonged pretextual detention but allows the conditions of confinement and racial and religious discrimination claims to proceed. CCR seeks and receives permission from the court to appeal the partial dismissal immediately.

May 30, 2006
Magistrate Judge Gold rules on wiretapping issue
May 30, 2006
Magistrate Judge Gold rules on wiretapping issue

Magistrate Judge Gold orders all defendants, witnesses, and government attorneys involved in the case to admit or deny whether they are "aware of any monitoring or surveillance of communications" between CCR attorneys and their clients.

The United States objects to Magistrate Judge Gold's order before the District Court.

Parties brief the surveillance issue before Judge Gleeson. On October 3, 2006, Judge Gleeson upholds Judge Gold's order regarding surveillance. Judge Gleeson gives the United States a limited period of time to provide the court with an in camera assurance that no intercepted communications are being used in the case.

Spring 2006
CCR demands to know whether their communications with Turkmen plaintiffs are subject of warrantless wiretapping by U.S. government and defendants
Spring 2006
CCR demands to know whether their communications with Turkmen plaintiffs are subject of warrantless wiretapping by U.S. government and defendants

In response to revelations about the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program, CCR demands to know whether communications between CCR and the Turkmen plaintiffs are being intercepted and revealed to government attorneys or defendants. The United States government vigorously fights to avoid stating whether or not it has access to surveillance of CCR attorneys in the case.

February 2006

Four Turkmen plaintiffs are paroled into U.S. to have their depositions taken

February 2006

Four Turkmen plaintiffs are paroled into U.S. to have their depositions taken

Non-citizens barred from re-entering the United States have never before been allowed to enter the country for the purpose of pursuing a civil case. The United States only allows their return on the condition that the plaintiffs remain in the custody of the United States Marshall Service for the entirety of their stay. They are not permitted to leave their hotel, nor contact their families or friends at home or in the United States. The plaintiffs accept these onerous conditions in order to better present their testimony.

December 3, 2004
District court denies MDC wardens' motions to dismiss case
December 3, 2004
District court denies MDC wardens' motions to dismiss case

Judge Gleeson denies the MDC wardens' motions to dismiss the third amended complaint. Motions by the higher-level defendants remain pending.

November 9,2004
Discovery begins
November 9,2004
Discovery begins

Despite the pending motions to dismiss, Judge Gleeson allows CCR to begin discovery against the United States and MDC defendants on their excessive force and conditions of confinement claims and Magistrate Judge Pollack issues a discovery schedule.

September 13, 2004
Third amended complaint filed
September 13, 2004
Third amended complaint filed

CCR fights to get discovery into the names of the officers described in the second OIG report, and uses this to write a third amended complaint, which names as defendants 28 MDC employees, included wardens, lieutenants, correctional officers, and counselors. The new complaint also adds an eighth plaintiff and several Federal Tort Claims Act claims against the United States. The parties engage in extended briefing over the defendants' motion to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint on qualified immunity grounds, as well as for lack of standing and jurisdiction. Defendants also challenge CCR's international law claims.

September 4, 2004

Elmaghraby plaintiffs intervene in case

September 4, 2004

Elmaghraby plaintiffs intervene in case

Two 9/11 detainees, Ehab Elmaghraby and Javaid Iqbal, who had brought their own challenge to the detention at MDC, are granted leave to intervene in Turkmen. Subsequent to this order, Elmaghraby and Turkmen are consolidated for discovery purposes. The Elmaghraby case later becomes Iqbal v. Ashcroft.

December 2003
A second OIG report is released
December 2003
A second OIG report is released
This second OIG report documents in graphic detail the physical and verbal abuse that detainees held at the MDC suffered at the hands of MDC officials and the inhuman conditions in which they were confined.
June 18, 2003
Second amended complaint filed
June 18, 2003
Second amended complaint filed

CCR seeks and receives permission to file a second amended complaint adding several new claims based on information made available by the OIG report. The government files a supplemental motion to dismiss the new claims. We oppose, and a second round of briefing is completed in July 2003.

April 2003
First DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report is released
April 2003
First DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report is released

The first Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) report is released, describing the government's secret round-up of more than 700 Muslim and Arab non-citizens after 9/11 on the pretext of immigration violations. It describes the government’s application of a blanket policy of denying them release on bond, even when the government lacked evidence that they posed a danger or a flight risk, and of the blanket policy of continuing to hold them for criminal investigatory purposes even after they could have been deported.

August 2002
Defendants move to dismiss case on qualified immunity grounds
August 2002
Defendants move to dismiss case on qualified immunity grounds

Briefing on defendant's motion is completed in late 2002 and CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman argues the motion before Judge Gleeson on December 19, 2002.

April 2002
Turkmen v. Ashcroft is filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
April 2002
Turkmen v. Ashcroft is filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Turkmen is first filed on behalf of three named plaintiffs, Ibrahim Turkmen, Asif-Ur-Rehman Saffi, and Syed Amjad Ali Jaffri, while hundreds of 9/11 detainees remain in custody. An amended complaint is filed on July 27, 2002, adding four additional plaintiffs and several new claims.