CAN PEOPLE UNFAIRLY PLACED ON NO-FLY LISTS SUE FOR DAMAGES?
An innocent man who was asked by the FBI to spy on his religious community and declined, and then became the target of government harassment including the confiscation of his passport, soon will learn whether the Supreme Court will allow those government officials to be held accountable.
If not, according to a new report from the Institute for Justice, “it will send a clear message to the FBI and other government agencies that they can trample on constitutional rights with impunity.”
“In the 19th century, when federal agents violated plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, they could bring a damages claim,” said IJ Attorney Anya Bidwell. “Unfortunately, those rights eroded over the past century. To argue that damages are not ‘appropriate relief’ for the violation of individual rights ignores hundreds of years of American legal history and requires the courts to create policy-based exceptions to the law, invading the constitutional role of Congress.”
The Institute for Justice has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case Tanzin v. Tanvir, scheduled to be heard and decided soon as the Supreme Court.
The IJ reported that “the FBI approached Muhammad Tanvir in 2007 and asked him to spy on his religious community. When Tanvir declined, the FBI repeatedly questioned him, harassed him, confiscated his passport, and placed him on the No-Fly List. Despite there being no evidence that he was a threat to air safety, the government kept Tanvir on the list for years. His inability to fly during that time cost him his job as a long-haul trucker and prevented him from visiting his family, including his wife, son and parents, who live abroad.”
He and others in similar circumstances sued in 2013, and on the eve of a court hearing in the case, the government suddenly took the men off the list, and said they could resume their travels.
Then the government claimed that since the injury to the men was no longer continuing, it and agents were off the hook.
The trial court agreed, but the claims were reinstated by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, putting it on track before the Supreme Court now.
“The technical question in the case is whether an individual whose religious rights have been violated can recover damages from the government officials who violated those rights. But the broader issue is whether government officials can be held accountable at all,” the IJ reported.
The institute is urging the high court “to allow damages.”
Its brief explains those are “essential to government accountability.”
“Since the founding of this country, the role of our courts has been to decide whether a person’s rights were violated and, if so, award appropriate relief, which historically includes money damages,” added IJ Attorney Patrick Jaicomo. “If the Supreme Court adopts the government’s position, government officials can violate the Constitution without consequence. They are effectively above the law.”
(Excerpt from WND.)
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