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Hassan v. City of New York

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

January 13, 2015, Argued; October 13, 2015, Opinion Filed

No. 14-1688

Opinion

 [*284]  OPINION OF THE COURT

AMBRO, Circuit Judge

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

II. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiffs' Allegations

1. The Program

2. Reports and Informational Databases

3. Fall-Out from the Program's Disclosure to the

Public

B. [**5]  District Court

III. STANDING

A. Injury-in-Fact

B. Fair Traceability

C. Redressability

IV. CONSTITUTIONAL CLAIMS

A. Equal-Protection Claim

1. Do Plaintiffs Plausibly Allege Intentional

Discrimination?

i. Plaintiffs Plausibly Allege a Surveillance

Program with a Facially Religious

Classification.

ii Intentional Discrimination Does Not Require an

Invidious Motive.

2. Is the Alleged Discrimination Nonetheless Legally

Justified?

i. Level of Scrutiny

ii. Evaluation of Means and Ends

B. First-Amendment Claims

V. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs appeal the dismissal of their civil-rights suit against the City of New York (the "City"). They claim to be targets of a wide-ranging surveillance program that the New York City Police Department (the "NYPD") began in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (the "Program"). Plaintiffs allege that the Program is based on the false and stigmatizing premise that Muslim religious identity "is a permissible proxy for criminality, and that Muslim individuals, businesses, and institutions can therefore be subject to pervasive surveillance not visited upon individuals, businesses, and institutions of any other religious faith or the public at large." First Am. [**6]  Compl. ¶ 6 (the "Complaint" or "Compl."). They bring this lawsuit "to affirm the principle that individuals may not be singled out for intrusive investigation and pervasive surveillance that cause them continuing harm simply because they profess a certain faith." Id. ¶ 8.

In its narrowest form, this appeal raises two questions: Do Plaintiffs—themselves allegedly subject to a discriminatory surveillance program—have standing to sue in federal court to vindicate their religious-liberty and equal-protection rights? If so, taking Plaintiffs' non-conclusory allegations as true, have they stated valid claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to our Constitution? Both of these questions, which we answer yes, seem straightforward enough. Lurking beneath the surface, however, are questions about equality, religious liberty, the role of  [*285]  courts in safeguarding our Constitution, and the protection of our civil liberties and rights equally during wartime and in peace.

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804 F.3d 277 *; 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 17776 **

SYED FARHAJ HASSAN; THE COUNCIL OF IMAMS IN NEW JERSEY; MUSLIM STUDENTS ASSOCIATION OF THE U.S. AND CANADA, INC.; ALL BODY SHOP INSIDE & OUTSIDE; UNITY BEEF SAUSAGE COMPANY; MUSLIM FOUNDATION INC.; MOIZ MOHAMMED; JANE DOE; SOOFIA TAHIR; ZAIMAH ABDUR-RAHIM; ABDUL-HAKIM ABDULLAH, Appellants v. THE CITY OF NEW YORK

Subsequent History: As Amended February 2, 2016.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (D.C. Civil Action No. 2-12-cv-03401). District Judge: Honorable William J. Martini.

Hassan v. City of New York, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20887 (D.N.J., Feb. 20, 2014)

CORE TERMS

surveillance, religious, classification, mosques, religion, allegations, discriminatory, heightened scrutiny, religious affiliation, motive, rights, intentional discrimination, intermediate scrutiny, Redressability, strict scrutiny, equal-protection, courts, organizations, monitor[ing, facially, schools, cases, discriminates, invidious, quotation, marks, injury-in-fact, conversations, intentionally, questions

Civil Procedure, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Justiciability, Standing, Injury in Fact, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Elements, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Religion, General Overview, Bill of Rights, Pleadings, Complaints, Requirements for Complaint, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Governments, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Dicta, Constitutional Questions, Police Powers, The Judiciary, Authority to Adjudicate, Appeals, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Free Exercise of Religion