Ninth Circuit rejects Patriot Act challenge for lack of standing

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that a lawsuit seeking to declare parts of the Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] unconstitutional must be dismissed for lack of standing. Brandon Mayfield [JURIST news archive], an attorney arrested [JURIST report] in 2004 based on FBI error in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], had argued that parts of the Patriot Act amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) violated the Fourth Amendment [text]. Specifically, Mayfield alleged that FISA provisions allowing the government use electronic surveillance [50 USC § 1804] and physically search [50 USC § 1823] his home without probable cause violated his Fourth Amendment rights. In reversing a lower court decision [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], the court refused to rule on the merits of the case, finding that Mayfield could not pursue his claim because a settlement [text, PDF; JURIST report] between Mayfield and the Government expressly limited Mayfield's possible relief to a declaratory judgment that the provisions violated the Fourth Amendment. The court held:


[I]n light of the limited remedy available to Mayfield, he does not have standing to pursue his Fourth Amendment claim because his injuries already have been substantially redressed by the settlement agreement, and a declaratory judgment would not likely impact him or his family.

The court also found that the settlement precluded the court from ordering the government to destroy all materials connected with the surveillance and search of Mayfield's home and that such actions would not be compelled even if the statutory provisions were found unconstitutional.

Mayfield originally alleged that the FBI orchestrated his arrest because of his religious beliefs as a Muslim, though a 2006 Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General report [text] refuted those claims [press release]. After an investigation into his arrest and detention, the DOJ Inspector General cleared FBI agents involved in the incident of any wrongdoing and made several suggestions for improvements to the fingerprint identification process that have since been implemented by the DOJ. The settlement agreement called for the government to pay Mayfield $2 million and issue a formal apology [text, PDF]. Mayfield was arrested after authorities mistakenly concluded [JURIST report] his fingerprints matched those on a bag holding detonators used in the bombing.


 

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