NYPD Could Face Civil Rights Lawsuits From Muslim Groups

A recent ruling by a US appeals court has stated that a coalition of Muslim groups are able to pursue a civil rights lawsuit that accuses New York city police of conducting secret surveillance on Muslims in New Jersey although there was no suspicion of criminal activity.

Previous Decision Overruled

NYPD_squareThe decision of a lower court to throw out the case was overruled by the third US circuit court of appeals and Philadelphia, finding that the plaintiffs had enough legal standing to assert claims that their rights were violated by the counter-terrorism program.

Circuit judge Thomas Ambro wrote a statement invoking the US internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II for a three-judge panel that said that the country has learned from experience that often, the most vigilance in protecting constitutional rights is when the asserted interest is most compelling. A spokesperson for the city’s department of law said that the city is currently reviewing the ruling.

Surveillance Program

NSA-Surveillance-ProgramThe program gained attention after a series of articles were published by the Associated Press, reporting that police officers were discriminating against Muslim organizations throughout the greater region of New York post 9/11.

According to media reports, the program was ended in 2014 when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, criticizing the effort on the campaign trail.

In February 2014 the case was dismissed by William Martini, a US district judge in Newark, New Jersey, finding that the city had managed to persuasively argue that the surveillance was part of an anti-terrorism program and not anti-Muslim. 

The merits of the case are not resolved by the decision of the appeals court, but rather the lawsuit will be returned to Martini for further proceedings.

baher-azmy.240.300.sBaher Azmy, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, said that there is not a Muslim exception to the Constitution. The Center for Constitutional Rights, along with Muslim Advocates, is representing the plaintiffs. According to their website, Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization which works on the frontline of civil rights in order to guarantee justice and freedom for American citizens of all faiths and religions. In addition to representing American Muslims who have been wrongfully targeted with high-impact lawsuits, they work to counter anti-Muslim hate by challenging hate crime and bigotry along with empowering communities through the strengthening of American Muslim charities and educating more people about their legal and civil rights.

This case is just one of a number of various lawsuits filed against New York in regards to the program. Back in 2013, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a similar claim in the Brooklyn federal court. In addition to this, a group of civil rights lawyers filed papers in Manhattan federal court which claimed that the surveillance is in breach of a longstanding court order which limits the ways in which police can monitor political activity. According to court filings, both of these previous disputes have since been settled.

The plaintiffs involved in the case include imams, students and business owners who claim that the surveillance has had many effects on their lives including threatening their careers and causing them to stop attending religious services.