Hassan v. City of New York

At a Glance

Current Status 

This case is in pre-trial litigation.  We are defending the City’s attempt to have the case thrown out before the merits of the case are heard in open court. Oral argument was held before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals on January 13, 2015.

Date Filed: 

June 6, 2012

Co-Counsel 

Muslim Advocates

Client 

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; Sofia Tahir; Zaimah Abdur-Rahim; and Abdul-Hakim Abdullah

Case Description 

Hassan v. City of New York is a federal lawsuit filed against the City of New York that challenges the New York Police Department’s suspicionless surveillance of Muslim Americans in New Jersey solely because of their Muslim identity. In a Pulitzer-prize winning series of stories released in 2011, the Associated Press revealed that after the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD established a sprawling and secretive human mapping and suspicionless surveillance program that targeted Muslim American communities in New York, New Jersey, and beyond.  Hassan v. City of New York is the first case ever brought on behalf of Muslim Americans who were unlawfully targeted and surveilled under this program. The case is part of CCR’s broader effort to end warrantless government surveillance of civilians, particularly those who are being targeted on the basis of their Muslim identity or activism. 

The original complaint was filed by Muslim Advocates in the District Court of New Jersey and later joined by CCR. We are asking the United States District Court to declare this surveillance program unconstitutional, order the NYPD to immediately stop spying on our clients. We also ask the Court to order the NYPD to destroy any records that have been surreptitiously generated about our clients and to award financial compensation for the economic harms that have resulted from the NYPD’s discriminatory conduct. 

Our client Zaimah Abdur-Rahim was surveilled by the NYPD because she operates a grade-school for Muslim girls.  NYPD officers recorded details about the school, such as the fact that it was run from Abdur-Rahim’s home and that its students were predominantly African-American.

There is no dispute that the NYPD’s goal under this program – both ambitious and chilling – was to create a human mapping system that monitored Muslims all along the Eastern Seaboard and beyond. No Muslim individual or entity appears to have been beyond suspicion. The NYPD monitored and/or infiltrated almost every aspect of Muslim life, from mosques and student associations, to halal butcher shops, restaurants, and private citizens.  Internal NYPD documents confirm that the surveillance program was not tied to suspicion of criminality and, in fact, produced zero leads to terrorist activity after more than a decade in operation.  The documents also show that the NYPD used the racial or ethnic background of Muslim Americans as a proxy to identify and target adherents of the Muslim faith, listing 28 “ancestries of interest” that are – to the NYPD – deserving of additional suspicion and scrutiny.  Among those ancestries of interests are Egyptian, Pakistani, Somali, Sudanese, and an array of other Asian, Middle Eastern, and African ancestries that together comprise roughly 80% of the world’s Muslim population.  Seemingly oblivious to the dark historical irony, the NYPD also listed “American Black Muslim” among the “ancestries of interest.”

The NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program contravenes decades of civil rights precedent and challenges bedrock constitutional principles: among them equal protection under the law and the First Amendment guarantee of the freedom of religion. 

Case Timeline

January 13, 2015

Oral Argument was held before Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia

January 13, 2015

Oral Argument was held before Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia

Audio of the argument can be heard at this link.

November 7, 2014

Plaintiffs files their reply brief in the appeal

November 7, 2014

Plaintiffs files their reply brief in the appeal

October 7, 2014

The City files its opposition brief in the appeal

October 7, 2014

The City files its opposition brief in the appeal

This is the first time since the de Blasio administration took office that the City publicly takes a position in the case. The City repeats the arguments made during the Mayor Bloomberg/Commissioner Kelly era claiming that surveillance of people based upon their religion is not illegal. The NYPD continues to defend its program even though the Supreme Court has forbidden law enforcement to use constitutionally protected characteristics as a reason to spy on communities or individuals.
July 10, 2014

Dozens of organizations sign on to eight amicus briefs filed in support of Plaintiffs' appeal

July 10, 2014

Dozens of organizations sign on to eight amicus briefs filed in support of Plaintiffs' appeal

Organizations and individuals that filed amicus briefs include 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, Karen Korematsu, ACLU NJ, MALDEF, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Police Chief Chris Burbank, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Sikh Coalition, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, AALDEF, Latino Justice, National Council of Jewish Women, the Auburn Theological Seminary, DRUM, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, ADC, and New Jersey Muslim Lawyer’s Association.
July 2, 2014

Plaintiffs file their opening appellate brief

July 2, 2014

Plaintiffs file their opening appellate brief

March 21, 2014

Plaintiffs file their notice of appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

March 21, 2014

Plaintiffs file their notice of appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

February 20, 2014

District Court issues an opinion and order granting the City's motion to dismiss

February 20, 2014

District Court issues an opinion and order granting the City's motion to dismiss

Federal judge dismisses the lawsuit for lack of standing and because the court considers plaintiffs’ claims of discrimination from NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program not “plausible.”
February 25, 2013

City files their reply in support of their motion to dismiss

February 25, 2013

City files their reply in support of their motion to dismiss

January 25, 2013

Plaintiffs file their opposition to the City's motion to dismiss

January 25, 2013

Plaintiffs file their opposition to the City's motion to dismiss

The plaintiffs’ response argues that the court should reject the City’s assertion that the events of 9/11 justify broad surveillance of any and all New Jersey Muslims, without any indication of wrongdoing.
December 2012
CCR joins lawsuit
December 2012
CCR joins lawsuit
December 6, 2012

City files a motion to dismiss

December 6, 2012

City files a motion to dismiss

October 3, 2012

Muslim Advocates files a first amended complaint on behalf of eleven individual and organizational plaintiffs

October 3, 2012

Muslim Advocates files a first amended complaint on behalf of eleven individual and organizational plaintiffs

Among the plaintiffs are a decorated Iraq war veteran, current and former Rutgers University students, the parent organization of the Muslim Student Associations of Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick campuses), a coalition of New Jersey mosques, and the owners and proprietors of a grade-school for Muslim girls. This disparate group of individuals and organizations share just one characteristic: their Muslim affiliation. That fact alone led the NYPD to target and surveil them in clear violation of bedrock U.S. constitutional principles.