Hassan v. City of New York

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NYPD Muslim Surveillance Case Reinstated! October 13, 2015, Philadelphia – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a comprehensive and stirring decision in the case Hassan v. City of New York, recognizing that New Jersey Muslims who have been subjected to the New York City Police Department’s program of blanket, suspicionless surveillance stated a valid claim of discrimination on the basis of their religion. The decision reverses a district court ruling dismissing the case.

 

Summary

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 2.19.45 AMA diverse group of American Muslim plaintiffs filed suit to end the New York Police Department’s invasive and discriminatory spying program. The first legal challenge against the NYPD for intrusive practices targeting American Muslims, the lawsuit seeks an immediate end to the unlawful surveillance and the purging of files maintained by the NYPD.

As documented by the Associated Press, the NYPD has been conducting unlawful surveillance of innocent American Muslims simply because of their faith.  American Muslims were targeted in New York City, as well as in towns, mosques, businesses, and college campuses throughout the northeast, including New Jersey.  Records show that the NYPD took copious notes on the details of American Muslims’ daily lives.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are as diverse as the American Muslim community itself: they include a decorated U.S. Army reservist, a small business owner who is also a Vietnam veteran, students and imams.

Amici Curiae Briefs

Amici Signatories

Over 60 organizations and individuals joined amici curiae briefs in support of the Hassan plaintiffs’ position:

  • 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care
  • American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
  • American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
  • The American Humanist Association
  • Americans United for Separation of Church and State
  • Arab American Association of New York (AAANY)
  • Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus (ALC)
  • The Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey
  • The Auburn Theological Seminary
  • Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice
  • The Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  • Brennan Center for Justice
  • The Central Conference of American Rabbis
  • Chris Burbank (Salt Lake City Chief of Police)
  • The Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago (CIOGC)
  • Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR)
  • DRUM — South Asian Organizing Center (formerly Desis Rising Up and Moving)
  • Eric Adams (Brooklyn Borough President)
  • The Garden State Bar Association
  • The Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey
  • Holly Yasui (Daughter of Minoru Yasui)
  • The Hindu Temple Society of North America
  • Imam Mahdi Association of Marjaeya (IMAM)
  • Interfaith Alliance Foundation
  • The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California
  • The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
  • Jay Hirabayashi (Son of Gary Hirabayashi)
  • Karen Korematsu (Daughter of Fred Korematsu)
  • Latino Justice PRLDEF
  • Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
  • The Muslim Alliance in North America
  • Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC)
  • Muslim Bar Association of New York (MuBANY)
  • Muslim Congress
  • Muslim Consultative Network (MCN)
  • Muslims for Peace
  • Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA)
  • Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
  • The National Council of Jewish Women
  • The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC)
  • National Lawyers Guild — New York City Chapter (NLG-NYC)
  • National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC)
  • The National Religious Campaign Against Torture
  • New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association (NJMLA)
  • North Jersey Media Group Inc.
  • The Northern California Islamic Council
  • Project SALAM (Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims)
  • The Queens Federation of Churches, Inc.
  • The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
  • The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Shia Rights Watch (SRW)
  • The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • The Sikh Coalition
  • South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
  • Ta’leef Collective
  • T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
  • The Union for Reform Judaism
  • The Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey
  • The Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA)
  • Universal Muslim Association of America Advocacy (UMAA Advocacy)
  • The Women of Reform Judaism

Case Documents

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Reply Brief of Plaintiff-Appellants in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 – Nov. 7, 2014

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Brief of Plaintiff-Appellants in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 – Jul. 3, 2014

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Opinion of Judge William J. Martini
 – Feb. 20, 2014

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Defendant’s Memorandum in Further Support of Motion to Dismiss
 – Feb. 25, 2013

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Exhibits
 – Jan. 25, 2013

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Plaintiffs’ Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss – Jan. 25, 2013

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Plaintiffs’ Letter Regarding Melendres v. Arpaio
 – May 30, 2013

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Defendant’s Memorandum of Motion to Dismiss
 – Dec. 6, 2012

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Declaration of Peter G. Farrell
 – Dec. 6, 2012

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Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint
 – Oct. 3, 2012

 

Legal Team & Plaintiff Biographies

Meet the legal team in the case:

 Farhana Khera - President & Executive Director of Muslim Advocates

Farhana Khera is the first President and Executive Director of Muslim Advocates.  Prior to joining Muslim Advocates in 2005, Ms. Khera was Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights. In the Senate, she worked for six years directly for Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI), the Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee.  Ms. Khera focused substantially on the USA Patriot Act, racial and religious profiling, and other civil liberties issues raised by the government’s anti-terrorism policies since September 11, 2001. She was the Senator’s lead staff member in developing anti-racial profiling legislation and organizing subcommittee hearings on racial profiling.

Other notable achievements:

  • Served as an associate with Hogan & Hartson, specializing in commercial and administrative litigation.
  • Worked with Ross, Dixon & Masback, serving as the lead associate on several pro bono employment discrimination cases.
  • Honored by the Auburn Theological Seminary with its Lives of Commitment Award.
  • Recognized by Islamica Magazine as one of “10 Young Muslim Visionaries” for leadership, innovative approaches, and “a level of success that bodes well for America.”
  • Quoted or profiled by numerous outlets, including The New York Times, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Austin American-Statesman, and San Jose Mercury News, as well as various legal, ethnic, and religious media.

 Glenn Katon - Legal Director of Muslim Advocates

Glenn Katon serves as legal director of Muslim Advocates. Mr. Katon has over 20 years of legal experience and comes to us from the ACLU of Florida, where he was a Senior Attorney and Director of the statewide Religious Freedom Project.

During his years at the ACLU, Mr. Katon litigated a wide variety of religious freedom and other civil liberties issues, including immigrants’ rights and free speech cases. Mr. Katon has tried over 15 cases in federal and state courts throughout the country and handled appeals in the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits and the Florida District Court of Appeal. He is admitted to practice in California, Florida, New York, and Texas.

Other notable achievements:

  • Practiced commercial litigation as a shareholder with Bush Ross, P.A. in Tampa, Florida, and as an associate in the Dallas, Texas, office of what is now Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP.
  • Served as a Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, receiving the Tax Division’s Outstanding Attorney Award in 2001.
  • Began his career as a law clerk to the Hon. Terry R. Means, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas.

 Adil Haq - Staff Attorney at Muslim Advocates

Adil Haq serves as a staff attorney at Muslim Advocates.  With several years of litigation experience, Mr. Haq is a critical member of our legal team, working closely with Legal Director Glenn Katon.  Mr. Haq’s practice focuses on cases challenging religious and racial profiling and anti-Muslim hate. Prior to joining Muslim Advocates, Mr. Haq worked at the Heller Ehrman and Schiff Hardin law firms in San Francisco.  In his former roles, Mr. Haq focused on commercial disputes and antitrust matters, and maintained a robust pro bonopractice, for which he was profiled by the Recorder, San Francisco’s legal trade paper.  Mr. Haq represented several inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility as they sought to file habeas corpus petitions.

Prior to law school, Mr. Haq joined Teach for America, spending three years as a fifth grade teacher with a public school in the Bronx, where in his final year he served as Grade Leader.

Mr. Haq graduated cum laude from Duke University with a degree in Political Science and English, and was awarded high distinction for his thesis.  He received a joint degree from the University of Michigan, cum laude from its law school, and an M.A. in South Asian Studies from its graduate school.  At the University of Michigan, Mr. Haq was twice awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship, a fully funded academic scholarship.

* NOTE: Ravinder S. Bhalla, Partner, Bhalla & Cho, LLC, served as counsel during initial pleadings stage of the case.

 

Meet the plaintiffs in the case:

 Moiz Mohammed

Currently in his third year at Rutgers University – New Brunswick, Moiz is focusing his studies in molecular biology and biochemistry and anticipates receiving a Bachelor of Sciences degree in 2014.  Since his faith is important to him, Moiz stays active within the Muslim community at Rutgers by attending weekly Muslim Student Association (MSA) lectures.  Recently, Moiz was elected Fundraising Head for his university’s MSA chapter for the upcoming school year.

 Imam W. Deen Shareef

He is the Convener of the Council of Imams in New Jerseya body of Muslim Leaders from various mosques and centers located in New Jersey who cooperate to develop and implement initiatives to improve the quality of life of the citizens in the communities they reside.  He also is a co-founder of the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace an organization of diverse faith leaders working to reduce violence in the City of Newark.  As a consultant he serves as a director on several boards in addition to conducting lectures, workshops, counseling, educating and training people in organizational and project management, ethics, moral guidance, personal and professional management, social responsibility and how to achieve ethically, intellectually and materially balanced lives.

Imam Wahy-ud Deen Shareef is also the proud father of four children and seven grandchildren.

Other notable achievements:

  • Served as Engineer Project Manager for Kraft/Nabisco Foods for 25 years.
  • President and CEO of Shareef Professional Services LLC, a consulting company assisting groups with the process of project development and management.
  • Co-founded Waris Associates Inc. to address community concerns about education, economy, and culture.

 Specialist Farhaj Hassan, U.S. Army Reserves

Specialist Farhaj Hassan was born in Chicago and grew up in Central New Jersey.  Farhaj resides in New Jersey and focuses on operational security for the Army.  He has done a tour in Iraq as part of the US Army 304th Civil Affairs Brigade, and has earned the Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Ribbon, National Defense Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, three Army Commendation Medals, Army Achievement Medal, Combat Action Badge.

Other notable achievements:

  • Conducted medical assessment and provided security in a humanitarian mission to Haiti with Imamia Medics International after the 2010 earthquake.
  • Worked as an EMT for DBO – Pro Care Patient Transport and Ambulatory Services.
  • Member of Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Civil Affairs Association and the US Green Buildings Coalition.

 Imam Abdul Kareem Muhammad

Abdul Kareem Muhammad is the Resident Imam of Masjid Al-Haqq, and Director of Education of the Clara Muhammad School, Newark, New Jersey.

Imam Muhammad is a member of the Northeast Regional Imams, Council of Imams in New Jersey, and the Northeast Regional Education Committee.  He is the formal Principal, Vice-Principal, Instructor, and Dean of Boys for the Muhammad University of Islam in Newark, New Jersey.

Imam Muhammad is the formal Chaplaincy Supervisor for the Department of Corrections in New Jersey, and is a member of the American and New Jersey Chaplains’ Association, and Convener for the Interfaith Dialogue Committee of Newark, New Jersey.

Imam Muhammad is a graduate of Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education.  He is married to Kareemah Muhammad, and is the recipient of numerous awards for outstanding Community Service, and performed Hajj in 2004.

 

What People Are Saying About the NYPD Spying Program

Find out what national and local government and community leaders are saying about NYPD’s surveillance program.

Members of Congress

U.S. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ)
“America is not safer when we spend valuable law enforcement resources on investigating the innocent multitudes rather than identifying the guilty few.  This lawsuit is a thoughtful, sensible step toward bringing law enforcement practices back into line with constitutional protections and the standards of good policing.”

“Casting suspicion on people on the basis of their race, religion, or ethnicity without any legally valid reasons is not the way we behave in America. Profiling in policing is a substitute for thinking.”

U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-LA), Chair, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus
“National security must be a priority for this country, but if we destroy those things that make America great in the process, then what are we protecting in the first place?”

U.S. Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ)
“We live in very dangerous times and protecting our country and all of our families must always be our top priority, but targeting individuals based on their religion is never acceptable and fundamentally un-American.”

Newark City Council Members

Luis A. Quintana
“I’m a Christian but I stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters.  If it’s Muslims who are spied upon just because of their religion, which group will be next?”

Ronald C. Rice
“We should join them (Muslims) in the name of religious freedom, respect, and the Constitution.”

Darrin S. Sharif
“The City Council can and will do something about this situation. You have my solid commitment that we will do whatever is required…we can’t walk into a mosque without worrying about someone standing on top of a building or snapping our picture.” 

New York City Council Members

Jumaane D. Williams
“I have serious questions as to the motivations of the NYPD’s surveillance program, especially with this new information. With each piece of breaking news, the overall picture of civil rights abuse becomes more disturbing.”

Other Pertinent Voices

Scott Stringer – Manhattan Borough President
“Whenever the police get wind of a potential threat, we expect them to pursue the matter with all deliberate speed and keep New York City safe.  But it is troubling when people are subject to surveillance and investigation simply because they are members of a particular group. We need to ensure that our efforts to combat the threat of terrorism does not trample on the civil liberties that all citizens have a right to enjoy.”

Ronald Davis – East Palo Alto Police Chief
“What is equally troubling and unsettling with the idea of using race, national origin or religion in the ‘national security’ context is that it suggests the most powerful nation in the world equipped with law enforcement and national security experts second-to-none must rely on bias and sloppy guess-work to secure the nation, rather than rely on human intelligence, evidence-based strategies, science, technology, and industry expertise. I want to strongly emphasize this point: there is no reason to profile on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or ethnicity, whether it is justified as an effort to protect our communities from terrorism, illegal immigration, or violent crime.”

Robert Jackson – NYC Council Education Committee Chairman
“When you step on one religious group, Muslims, then you’re stepping on every religious group, and if you take the position, ‘Well its not me.  I’m not concerned about it’; it’s not you today, but what if it’s you tomorrow?”

 

Pre-Lawsuit Timeline of NYPD-Related Activities

June 6, 2012
Muslim Advocates files lawsuit against the NYPD for racial and religious profiling of Muslims in New Jersey.

May 2012
Representative Rush Holt, D-N.J., and Representative Keith Ellison, D-MN, introduce a resolution proposing to end NYPD programs that had enabled officers to conduct surveillance in mosques and venues as well.

April 20, 2012
Muslim Advocates respond to White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan’s endorsement of racial and religious profiling by the NYPD.

March 19, 2012
Muslim Advocates and other civil rights organizations urge U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to open an investigation of the NYPD.

February 3, 2012
Muslim Advocates files complaint demanding New York General Attorney investigate the NYPD concerning surveillance of American – Muslims

February 2012
Senator Robert Menendez requested the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate NYPD surveillance in Newark.

October 2011
At least seven members of the New York Senate requested Attorney General of the State of New York Eric Schneiderman conduct an investigation into NYPD mapping and surveillance of the Muslim community

September 6, 2011
AP report states that the NYPD identified 263 “hot spots” in New York City.

September 2011
Representative Rush Holt, D-N.J., requested the Justice Department investigate into the NYPD surveillance of Muslims.

August 31, 2011
AP report published stating an NYPD Demographics Unit was established to “map ethnic neighborhoods” and communities associated with “ancestries of interest” in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

September 2007
NYPD begins surveillance outside of its jurisdiction and in Newark, New Jersey.

February 2007
NYPD mapped and surveyed individual venues of Arab, Bangladeshi, Guyanese, Iranian, Pakistani, and Turkish communities within Nassau County, New York.

November 2006
NYPD began following Muslim Student Association websites, blogs, and forums of universities within New York as well as New Jersey.

August 2006
Investigations within the five western towns of Suffolk County, New York began. NYPD officers placed mosques, cuisines, and meat stores under surveillance, taking note of the ethnicity and faith of the owners as well as people visiting these locations.

May 2006
NYPD attempts to identify potential sources of danger due to US-Iran conflict and suggests focusing “intelligence collections at Shi’a mosques.”

February 2006
NYPD began surveying mosques and Muslim individuals in the New York area to speculate the potential backlash from publicizing a Danish cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

 

Hear From the Plaintiffs