Federal appeals court revives Muslim civil rights lawsuit

Federal appeals court revives Muslim civil rights lawsuit

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] on Tuesday revived [opinion, PDF] a civil rights lawsuit filed by a coalition of Muslim groups that accuses the New York City Police Department (NYPD) [official website] of conducting unjustified surveillance on Muslims in New Jersey. The appeals court reversed a lower court decision to throw out the case and found that the coalition of groups did indeed have standing to bring the claims that the surveillance program violated their rights. The program, initiated after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, surveilled Muslims in the New York City region. The question presented to the court is whether the surveillance was conducted solely because the individuals and businesses were Muslim. Judge Thomas Andro wrote in the opinion, “We have learned from experience that it is often where the asserted interest appears most compelling that we must be most vigilant in protecting constitutional rights.”

The Associated Press’s reports [AP report] on the the NYPD’s surveillance efforts targeting Muslim communities have generated significant outrage in the Muslim community and triggered a number of lawsuits. In April 2014 the new commissioner of the NYPD William Bratton announced [JURIST report] the disbanding of the Demographics Unit surveillance unit used to spy on the Muslim communities. In February 2014 a judge for the US District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled [JURIST report] that the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims was a lawful effort for national security and did not constitute harm or violation of civil rights. The Muslim Advocates filed [JURIST report] the lawsuit in 2012. In September 2013 former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly admitted [JURIST report] that the NYPD spied on mosques and on a Muslim preacher but requested that the court dismiss the complaint.