No Moussaoui Evidence For 9/11 Plantiffs

This artist's rendering shows Zacarias Moussaoui in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., Thursday, May 4, 2006 during the sentencing of the convicted al-Qaeda conspirator. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema sentenced Moussaoui to life in prison. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren)
AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren
A Virginia judge lacked authority to order the U.S. government to provide evidence from the trial of al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to the families of Sept. 11 victims for use in their lawsuits against the airline industry and others, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the federal court in the Southern District of New York has sole authority over evidence in the civil cases stemming from the terrorist attacks.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema of Alexandria, Va., last April ordered the government to give the plaintiffs non-sensitive information that prosecutors turned over to Moussaoui's attorneys, but which was never introduced at his trial.

The appeals court unanimously ruled that Brinkema exceeded her authority.

"We, like the district court, have great sympathy for the victims of September 11 and their families," Judge Karen Williams wrote. "They have endured the most abhorrent of acts. But regardless of how much respect and compassion this court has, we must ensure that the federal courts in our jurisdiction — no matter how well intentioned — do not exceed their legal power."