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Federal Agents Who Violate Individual Rights Can Be Sued For Damages, Supreme Court Rules


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But since RFRA doesn’t explicitly define what counts as “appropriate relief,” the case sought to determine “whether ‘appropriate relief’ includes claims for money damages against Government officials in their individual capacities.” By a vote of 8-0, the court agreed with Tanvir that it does. (Since oral argument occurred before Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, she did not participate in the case.)

“In the context of suits against government officials, damages have long been awarded as appropriate relief” and have “coexisted with our constitutional system since the dawn of the Republic,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court. Moreover, suing for damages is not just “appropriate,” Thomas noted, “it is also the only form of relief that can remedy some RFRA violations.” For Tanvir’s lost income and “wasted plane tickets, effective relief consists of damages, not an injunction.” 

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