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Valerie Plame’s Lawsuit Dismissed

Valerie Plame’s civil suit against Dick Cheney and others has been thrown out. AP’s Matt Apuzzo:

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s lawsuit against members of the Bush administration in the CIA leak scandal. Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had accused Vice President Dick Cheney and others of conspiring to leak her identity in 2003. Plame said that violated her privacy rights and was illegal retribution for her husband’s criticism of the administration.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds and said he would not express an opinion on the constitutional arguments. Bates dismissed the case against all defendants: Cheney, White House political adviser Karl Rove, former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Plame’s attorneys had said the lawsuit would be an uphill battle. Public officials are normally immune from such lawsuits filed in connection with their jobs.

No surprise here. Allowing private suits against public officials for harm caused by official acts would open a Pandora’s box.

This is purely a technicality, not a ruling on the merits, so Bates’ ruling sheds no light on Plame’s claims.

UPDATE: WaPo’s Carol Leonnig has more:

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates said that Cheney and White House aides cannot be held liable for the disclosure of information about Plame in the summer of 2003 while they were trying to rebut criticism of the administration’s war efforts levied by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. The judge said such efforts were certainly part of the officials’ scope of normal duties.

Bates also ruled that the court lacked the power to award damages for public disclosure of private information about Plame. The judge said that was because Plame and Wilson had failed to exhaust other remedies in seeking compensation from appropriate federal agencies for the alleged privacy violations.

The text of Bates’ ruling is here. The key ‘graphs:

Defendants’ motions, however, raise issues that the Court is obliged to address before it can consider the merits of plaintiffs’ claims. As it turns out, the Court will not reach, and therefore expresses no views on, the merits of the constitutional and other tort claims asserted by plaintiffs based on defendants’ alleged disclosures because the motions to dismiss will be granted.

For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that, under controlling Supreme Court precedent, special factors — particularly the remedial scheme established by Congress in the Privacy Act — counsel against the recognition of an implied damages remedy for plaintiffs’ constitutional claims. The Court also finds that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the tort claim because plaintiffs have not exhausted their administrative remedies under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which is the proper, and exclusive, avenue for relief on such a claim.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Judge Honest says:

    Like this was a surprise….

    Judge Bates was appointed United States District Judge in December 2001. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1968 and received a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1976. From 1968 to 1971, he served in the United States Army, including a tour in Vietnam. Judge Bates clerked for Judge Roszel C. Thomsen of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland from 1976 to 1977 and was an associate at Steptoe & Johnson from 1977 to 1980. He served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1980 to 1997, and was Chief of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office from 1987 to 1997. Judge Bates was on detail as Deputy Independent Counsel for the Whitewater investigation from 1995 to mid-1997. In 1998, he joined the Washington law firm of Miller & Chevalier, where he was Chair of the Government Contracts/Litigation Department and a member of the Executive Committee. Judge Bates has served on the Advisory Committee for Procedures of the D.C. Circuit and on the Civil Justice Reform Committee for the District Court, and as Treasurer of the D.C. Bar, Chairman of the Publications Committee of the D.C. Bar, and Chairman of the Litigation Section of the Federal Bar Association. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. In 2005, he was appointed by Chief Justice Rehnquist to serve on the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management. In February 2006, he was appointed by Chief Justice Roberts to serve as a judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

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  4. Karl says:

    The AP manages to get the story mostly wrong. If you check the opinion, it clearly states:

    For the reasons given above, plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can
    be granted with respect to their four causes of action asserted directly under the Constitution.
    Furthermore, this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ claim for public
    disclosure of private facts.

    BTW, I don’t automatically attribute this to bias; the press generally has no clue regarding legal matters. However, in response to the first comment, I note that the AP got this much right:

    Plame’s attorneys had said the lawsuit would be an uphill battle. Public officials are normally immune from such lawsuits filed in connection with their jobs.

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  5. James Joyner says:

    Matt Apuzzo wrote the piece. He’s not an attorney, I’m pretty sure, but he does spend hours a day covering the courts, talking to attorneys, and such. I tend to trust his summaries of such things.

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  6. Karl says:

    I agree that Apuzzo’s usually good (another reason I didn’t call bias). But he blew this one… and in a way that helps the nutroots pooh-pooh the ruling as being on a “technicality.” Bates very clearly ruled that the Constitutional claims were non-starters.

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  7. Anderson says:

    The AP manages to get the story mostly wrong.

    Really? It seems they did manage to read the second paragraph:

    As it turns out, the Court will not reach, and therefore expresses no views on, the merits of the constitutional and other tort claims asserted by plaintiffs based on defendants’ alleged disclosures because the motions to dismiss will be granted.

    Sounds like “didn’t reach the constitutional claims” to me. But all I know is what the judge wrote.

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  9. James Joyner says:

    I know is what the judge wrote.

    Yeah, but what does he know?

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  10. Anderson says:

    Silly judges!

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  11. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I see it as a real shame. I think we missed the opportunity to get Val and Joe under oath in a court of law. I am curious which testimony Val would give as she has given three different stories so for. I wonder what Wilson would say was correct, the testimony he gave to the Senate Select Commmittee on Intelligence, who determined he was lying, or what he gave to the newspaper? Why are not the Plame-Wilsons not suing Richard Armitage? It was his information on the subject that was published by Robert Novak. I don’t know what Wilson is hoping for in the possible next Clinton admin, but I’ll bet Bill has a position for Valerie.

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  12. Plame Lawsuit Dismissed…

    Valerie Plame, whose name launched a federal investigation into who leaked her identity to the press and netted Scooter Libby in a tangled web of contradictions leading to his conviction of perjury and obstruction of justice charges (and commuted by …..

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  13. Len says:

    Activist judges!

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  14. Plame flameout…

    From the "news you probably didn't hear about" category:
    Plame lawsuit against Cheney dismissed – A federal judge in Washington yesterday dismissed a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney and other high-ranking Bush administration of…

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