Court: Settlement all Ore. lawyer gets in bombing

Court: Settlement all Ore. lawyer gets in bombing
AP file photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge to the USA Patriot Act by an Oregon lawyer once wrongly suspected in the 2004 terrorist bombing in Spain.

Brandon Mayfield was arrested and held for two weeks after his home and office in the Portland area were bugged and searched.

The FBI relied on a fingerprint from the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people. But it turned out the fingerprint belonged to somebody else.

Mayfield got an apology and a $2 million settlement from the federal government.

But he also went to court to argue it was unconstitutional to use the Patriot Act to authorize secret searches and wiretapping without a showing of probable cause or that the primary purpose was to gather foreign intelligence.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken agreed with Mayfield in 2007.

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her decision Thursday, ruling the settlement deal "substantially redressed" any injury claims by Mayfield.

In the opinion by Judge Richard Paez, the appeals court noted that Mayfield claimed he continued to suffer injury because the government refused to identify and destroy all materials from the searches and seizures of his home and office.

"We agree that Mayfield suffers an actual, ongoing injury," Paez wrote.

But the court said the terms of the settlement did not allow him to ask for an injunction against the government, leaving him only with the option of seeking what is called a "declaratory judgment" that spells out the rights or obligations of parties in a dispute.

Unlike an injunction, however, a declaratory judgment is not an order that can be enforced.

As a result, the court reasoned it would have no impact on Mayfield and would not allow him to pursue a Fourth Amendment claim to challenge the Patriot Act.

"Having bargained away all other forms of relief, Mayfield is now entitled only to a declaratory judgment," the opinion said.

The court also noted the government was unlikely to return the materials "as it is under no legal obligation to do so, and has stated in its brief that it does not intend to take such action."

U.S. Justice Department officials declined to comment.

Mayfield did not return phone calls or an e-mail request for comment.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.