The Next President and the Supreme Court

Every vote counts. And this year, it could count double. One vote could decide both the immediate election and the course of constitutional law for decades to come.

Just ask the senior federal officials responsible for our security immediately after 9/11 who were sued years later by Javaid Iqbal. During the investigation into the attacks, FBI officials identified Iqbal as a suspect of high interest and detained him in New York. He sued alleging that high government officials, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, personally ordered that he be discriminated against on the basis of religion, race, or national origin.

Iqbal provided no facts in support of his conspiracy theory. When his case finally reached the Supreme Court, five justices properly, but narrowly, rejected his speculative claims that would have cleared the way for plaintiffs’ lawyers to embark on fishing expeditions in hopes of winning windfall damages from current and former federal officials. Only a single vote in the high court kept Iqbal and countless others with no proof of any wrongdoing outside their own imagination from subjecting government officials to depositions and other harassing litigation tactics. Though the chance of hitting a punitive-damages jackpot is small, the prospect of such an award would have ensured a steady flow of rapacious court challenges.

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