University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Human Rights Watch v. Drug Enforcement Administration NS-CA-0016
Docket / Court 2:15-cv-02573 ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) National Security
Case Summary
On April 7, 2015, Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-partisan, non-profit human rights organization, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The plaintiff sued under the Administrative Procedures Act against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and ... read more >
On April 7, 2015, Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-partisan, non-profit human rights organization, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The plaintiff sued under the Administrative Procedures Act against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The plaintiff, represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief claiming that a mass surveillance program conducted by the DEA violated the HRW and its staff's First Amendment free speech and free association rights as well as their Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.

Specifically, HRW alleged that the DEA had been engaged in a secret mass surveillance program as early as the 1990s. HRW noted that the DEA acknowledged the existence of this program in a declaration filed in January 2015 for a separate case (included as an exhibit in HRW's complaint). According to HRW, the surveillance program indiscriminately swept in call records for calls between the United States and "Designated Countries" that are "determined to have a 'demonstrated nexus to international drug trafficking and related criminal activities.' " HRW alleged that these call records were recorded in databases, which were then made accessible to the officers and employees of the DEA, DHS, and FBI. HRW claimed that during the course of its work, it communicated with individuals in Designated Countries, and that the surveillance program put HRW's contacts at risk and burdened HRW's human rights advocacy efforts. HRW alleged that the defendants violated its First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights, and requested declaratory and injunctive relief and reasonable attorneys' fees.

On June 15, 2015, the defendants, represented by an attorney from the Department of Justice, moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that HRW failed to establish that it has standing to pursue its claims. On August 14, 2015, Judge Philip S. Gutierrez issued an order holding in abeyance ruling on the defendants' motion. Judge Gutierrez determined that HRW should be allowed an opportunity to conduct discovery to respond to the defendants' attack on standing, and authorized HRW to serve a limited number of interrogatories on the defendants.

On December 14, 2015, HRW filed for voluntary dismissal without prejudice, as the defendants had provided additional information through discovery concerning the destruction of call records collected in bulk. Two days later, Judge Gutierrez submitted an order dismissing the case without prejudice.

John He - 09/26/2015
Dawn Lui - 10/19/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Terrorism/Post 9-11 issues
Watchlist
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) Drug Enforcement Administration
Plaintiff Description International human rights organization.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Some Information Sought
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Filing Year 2015
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:15-cv-02573 (C.D. Cal.)
NS-CA-0016-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/16/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
NS-CA-0016-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/07/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Holding in Abeyance Ruling on the Motion to Dismiss and Granting in Part Plaintiff’s Request for Discovery [ECF# 38] (C.D. Cal.)
NS-CA-0016-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/14/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Gutierrez, Philip S. (C.D. Cal.)
NS-CA-0016-0002 | NS-CA-0016-9000
Rosenbluth, Jean P. Court not on record [Magistrate]
NS-CA-0016-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cardozo, Nathan (California)
NS-CA-0016-0001 | NS-CA-0016-9000
Crocker, Andrew (California)
NS-CA-0016-9000
Fakhoury, Hanni Meena (California)
NS-CA-0016-0001 | NS-CA-0016-9000
Greene, David Allen (California)
NS-CA-0016-0001 | NS-CA-0016-9000
Opsahl, Kurt Bradford (California)
NS-CA-0016-0001 | NS-CA-0016-9000
Rumold, Mark Thomas (California)
NS-CA-0016-0001 | NS-CA-0016-9000
Tien, Lee (California)
NS-CA-0016-0001 | NS-CA-0016-9000
Williams, Jamie (California)
NS-CA-0016-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Wyer, Kathryn L. (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0016-9000

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