Headline: Ninth Circuit panel holds that Westfall Act provides immunity from liability under the Alien Tort Statute to high ranking Bush Administration officials.
Areas of Law: Westfall Act, Immunity of Government Officials
Issues Presented: (1) Whether the Westfall Act provides absolute immunity to government officials for alleged violations of the Alien Tort Statute. (2) Whether Congress can grant immunity from liability to federal officials for a jus cogens violation.
Brief Summary: Appellant Sundus Shaker Saleh (“Saleh”) filed a class action lawsuit against a number of Bush Administration officials (“Appellees”), alleging that they conspired to wage a war of aggression against Iraq, a violation of the “law of nations” under the Alien Tort Statute. Pursuant to the Westfall Act, the district court substituted the United States as the only defendant and dismissed the case due to Saleh’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies as prescribed by the Federal Tort Claims Act. Saleh appealed, arguing that Appellees did not enjoy immunity under the Westfall Act and, even if they did, Congress cannot grant immunity to officials for a jus cogens violation. The Ninth Circuit panel affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss the case.