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Supreme Court hears federal prison Koran seizure, futures cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Monday in Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prison [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-9130, to determine whether a Federal Tort Claims Act [text] exception barring claims for detained property against "law enforcement officers" includes federal prison officials who seized a Muslim prisoner's Korans and prayer rug, or whether it only applies to officials working in a tax, excise, or customs capacity. The case was filed by Abdus-Shahid Ali, an inmate serving 20 years to life for first-degree murder, who says that prison officials working for both the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and the US Bureau of Prisons [official websites] illegally confiscated his religious property and harassed him for expressing his Muslim faith while in custody. In his lawsuit, Ali alleged that the exception for "law enforcement officers," as defined under the Act, does not extend to prison officials. Lawyers for the Department of Justice [official website] argued Monday that he had no right to bring suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act because the exception applies to all law enforcement officers, and that he should only be permitted to file an administrative complaint for his claims. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit earlier this month affirmed [opinion, PDF] a lower court dismissal of Ali's claims, ruling that the prison officials fit under the exception. AP has more.

The Court also heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Monday in Klein & Co. Futures v. Board of Trade City of New York [LII case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-1265, where it must consider whether futures commissions merchants, who enter into contracts for future delivery of commodities, engage in "transactions" as defined under the Commodity Exchange Act [text]. Klein & Co. filed its lawsuit against the New York Futures Exchange and the New York Board of Trade, alleging that two boards' price-fixing schemes caused Klein to lose its trading licenses and go out of business. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [PDF text] that Klein & Co. lacked standing to bring suit because it did not engage in any of the transactions set forth in the Act.

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