Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 3 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 403 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

Souter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Stevens, O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 422.

Richard A. Cordray argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs was Harry Litman.

Solicitor General Olson argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Assistant Attorney General McCallum, Deputy Solicitor General Clement, Patricia A. Millett, Barbara L. Herwig, and Robert M. Loeb.

Jennifer K. Harbury, respondent, argued the cause and filed a brief pro se.*

Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent-plaintiff in this case alleges that Government officials intentionally deceived her in concealing information that her husband, a foreign dissident, was being detained and tortured in his own country by military officers of his government, who were paid by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). One count of the complaint, brought after the husband's death, charges that the official deception denied respondent access to the courts by leaving her without information, or reason to seek information, with which she could have brought a lawsuit that might have saved her husband's life. The issue is whether this count states an actionable claim. We hold that it does not, for two reasons. As stated in the complaint, it fails to identify an underlying cause of action for relief that the plaintiff would have raised had it not been for the deception alleged. And even after a

*Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America by Jeffrey R. White and Laura C. Tharney; for the Brennan Center for Justice by Jodie L. Kelley; and for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area et al. by Robert E. Borton, Scott D. Wiener, Robert Rubin, Steven R. Shapiro, and Lucas Guttentag.


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