MIAMI, April 23 (UPI) -- The government asked a federal appeals panel in Miami Tuesday to overturn a ruling by a judge last year that had allowed about 50 Cuban-Americans to sue former Attorney General Janet Reno for ordering a raid on the Miami home of Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez.
The Justice Department contends she can't be sued because she was representing the government. A three-judge panel of the 13th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took the matter under advisement, and said it would be about two months before a ruling would be made.
Some of the plaintiffs say they were injured in the raid and blame Reno for authorizing them.
"Janet Reno knew what she was doing," said Larry Klayman, the head of the conservative watchdog organization Judicial Watch who is representing the Cuban-Americans.
"She knew she was violating the constitutional rights of our clients, the citizens of Little Havana," he said after presenting oral arguments.
The government argued there were no grounds for the suit against her.
"We contend there was no excessive force and in any event she can't be held responsible for what the officers did," said Gregory Katsas, the deputy attorney general who represented the government.
Reno is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, and supporters say the suit may be political in nature. She did not appear in court.
A task force of Immigration and Naturalization Service agents raided the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, Elian's great uncle, April 22, 2000, and took the 6-year-old boy away. He was flown to Washington and reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
Elian had been rescued from waters off South Florida the previous Thanksgiving. He was then placed in the care of Lazaro Gonzalez and his family.
But when the Justice Department ruled in January 2001 that he should be returned to his father in Cardenas, Cuba, the Miami family resisted, seeking help from the courts and Congress.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department tried to reach an agreement with the family, which never materialized. Despite last-minute, late-night negotiations, the INS raid was conducted.