Friday, March 01, 2019

9th Circuit: Suit Against FBI For Anti-Muslim Surveillance May Move Ahead

In Fagaza v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, (9th Cir., Feb. 28, 2019), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 103-page opinion held that three Muslim plaintiffs may move ahead with many of their claims growing out of an FBI investigation that they allege involved unlawful searches and anti-Muslim discrimination. The court in a lengthy summary of its holdings said in part:
Addressing plaintiffs’ claims arising from their allegations that they were targeted for surveillance solely because of their religion, the panel first held that the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment injunctive relief claims against the official-capacity defendants may go forward. Second, concerning plaintiffs’ Bivens claims seeking monetary damages directly under the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses and the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, the panel concluded that the Privacy Act and the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (“RFRA”), taken together, provided an alternative remedial scheme for some, but not all, of their Bivens claims....  Fourth, concerning plaintiffs’ claims that Agent Defendants and Government Defendants violated RFRA by substantially burdening plaintiffs’ exercise of religion, and did so without a compelling government interest without the least restrictive means, the panel held that it was not clearly established in 2006 or 2007 that defendants’ covert surveillance violated plaintiffs’ freedom of religion protected by RFRA. The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the RFRA claim as to the Agent Defendants because they were not on notice of a possible RFRA violation.
UPDATE: Los Angeles Times reports on the decision.