Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Prisoner's Tort Claims Act Case

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments (full transcript) in the case of Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prison, 06-9130. At issue is whether a suit for damages can be brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) by a Muslim inmate who claims that prison officials mishandled his prayer rug and two copies of the Koran. They are among items that are missing after inmate Abdus-Shahid Ali was transferred from a prison in Atlanta to one in Kentucky. The government argues that Ali should be limited to filing an administrative complaint for the items lost in transit. (Associated Press.) The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals below dismissed Ali's claim because 28 USC Sec. 2680(c) provides that the waiver of sovereign immunity in the FTCA does not extend to claims for the detention of property. Circuits are split over whether this provision applies to suits against all government officials, or only to suits against officers acting in a tax, excise, or customs capacity. (Questions presented.) The merit briefs in the case are also available online. [Thanks to How Appealing for the lead.]