The US Supreme Court has agreed to allow former top Bush administration officials to be sued over detentions of immigrants after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The decision on Tuesday means that former officials of the George W. Bush administration can be held liable for the arrest, detention and harsh treatment of Muslims and other undocumented immigrants following 9/11.
"No one is above the law. To suggest that the most powerful people in our nation should escape liability when they violate clearly established law defies the most fundamental principle of our legal system," said Rachel Meeropol of the Center for Constitutional Rights, representing the victims.
However, the process would be a difficult one as the Obama administration will be defending Bush’s so-called “war on terrorism.”
In addition, two of the court’s remaining eight justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, will not participate in oral arguments or a final decision on the case due to conflicts of interest.
The high court has been operating with eight justices after Justice Antonin Scalia's unexpected death in February and now with two justices stepping aside, the court has only the bare minimum necessary to proceed with a case as a federal law stipulates that at least six justices are needed for a quorum.
There is a possibility that a ninth justice will partake if one is confirmed in the coming months, it is unclear whether this will happen though.
"It's hard to make the argument that the Supreme Court is barely going to be able to put together a quorum going forward, but it's definitely dwindling," said Emory law professor Jonathan Nash.
Following the 9/11 attacks, more than 750 undocumented immigrants were arrested and detained without any evidence that suggests they had terrorist connections.
The immigrants said they were held in solitary confinement and were verbally and physically abused by prison guards, deprived of sleep, and subjected to redundant strip searches.
US Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, and other Bush officials were once sued, but the Justice Department appealed, asserting that there was no evidence showing those officials were aware of the conditions of confinement.