LatinoJustice PRLDEF Submits Amicus Brief to the Third Circuit Supporting Appeal Challenging Unconstitutional Surveillance of Muslim Americans in NJ

In July, 2014, LatinoJustice PRLDEF joined with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and other civil rights organizations in submitting a friend-of-the-court brief to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Hassan, et al, v. City of New York, which challenges the NYC Police Department’ (NYPD) surveillance of Muslims, mosques, Muslim-owned business, and Muslim student associations in New Jersey. The amicus brief submitted in support of the plaintiffs’ appeal contends the Federal District Court in New Jersey erred in dismissing their claims of religious and ethnic profiling by the NYPD under the NYPD’s unprecedented post-9/11 human mapping and surveillance program.

The Hassan case was filed in June 2012 by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Muslim Advocates on behalf of 11 plaintiffs, including: a decorated Iraq war veteran, current and former Rutgers University students, the parent organization of the Muslim Student Association of the Rutgers University, a coalition of New Jersey mosques, and the owners and proprietors of a grade school for Muslim girls. After 9-11, the NYPD established an expansive and secretive human mapping and surveillance program that targeted Muslim American communities in New York, New Jersey, and beyond, exclusively on the basis of their religious affiliation. In direct violation of the U.S. Constitution, the NYPD monitored and infiltrated all aspects of Muslim life, from mosques and student associations to restaurants and private citizens. The surveillance program has in over a decade of existence failed to produce any leads to purported terrorist activity.

The case has significant implications for future civil rights cases if the lower court’s decision dismissing the complaint is not reversed. Civil rights litigants would now be required to meet a much higher burden of pleading specificity of their claims when suing government agencies for discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or religion. The amicus brief seeks to have the court place such burden on the government to justify their actions when serious constitutional concerns are raised. “When a person presents evidence that a government agency has singled them out for harsher treatment because of their race, ethnicity or religion, the government bears a heavy burden of justifying its actions,” stated Rutgers Law School-Newark’s Acting Dean Ronald Chen, who is serving as the ACLU-NJ’s cooperating counsel in the case. “The plaintiffs deserve to have their day in court to challenge being profiled by the NYPD.”

LatinoJustice joined with the ACLU of NJ, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Garden State Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, and the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey in the amicus brief which was drafted and filed by the ACLU of NJ and the Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic Center for Law & Justice. For more information on the Hassan case go to: CCRjustice.org /hassan.

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