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Case Name Parsons v. U.S. Department of Justice CJ-MI-0006
Docket / Court 2:14-cv-10071 ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Speech and Religious Freedom
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU of Michigan
Case Summary
On Jan. 8, 2014, six self-described "Juggalos" (or fans of the Insane Clown Posse, or any other Psychopathic Records hip hop group) filed this lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan under ... read more >
On Jan. 8, 2014, six self-described "Juggalos" (or fans of the Insane Clown Posse, or any other Psychopathic Records hip hop group) filed this lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and Declaratory Judgment Act. The plaintiffs were represented by the ACLU and private counsel. Their complaint alleged that the FBI had conducted a "threat assessment" in 2011 that classified Juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang," a designation, the complaint alleged, that caused the plaintiffs various harms, including extra police attention. The plaintiffs alleged, under the APA, that the defendants had violated their constitutional rights in the following ways: (1) agency action contrary to the First Amendment's freedom of association, (2) agency action contrary to the First Amendment's freedom of expression, (3) agency action that violates due process under the Fifth Amendment, (4) arbitrary and capricious agency action, (5) agency action that fails to observe procedures required by law. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief.

The case was assigned to District Judge Robert Cleland. On Apr. 9, 2014, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case. On June 30, 2014, Judge Cleland granted the motion to dismiss, finding that the alleged injuries were not sufficiently certain or precise to allow them standing to sue. Parsons v. U.S. Department of Justice, 30 F.Supp.3d 648 (E.D. Mich. 2014).

The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. On Sept. 17, 2015, Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Ohio, sitting by designation, authored a unanimous opinion reversing the district court's June 30, 2014, dismissal. Judge Sargus found that the plaintiffs did have standing to sue, and did not rule on the merits, but rather remanded the case to the district court. Parsons v. U.S. Department of Justice, 2015 WL 5446909, 801 F.3d 701 (6th Cir. 2015).

On Jan. 29, 2016, the defendants moved to dismiss the case, and the district court granted the motion on Sept. 29, 2016. The court found that the alleged harms were due to actions of third parties - for example, the local police and sheriff departments - and not the defendants. These harms were therefore not legal consequences, and did not qualify for judicial review under the APA. Further, the court held that the defendants' actions were the result of legally mandated agency discretion and therefore not subject to APA review. Separately, the court did not find merit in the plaintiffs' claim that their classification violated the due process requirement to avoid vagueness as the classification did not require anything of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs filed notice of appeal on Oct. 13, 2016.

On Dec. 18, 2017, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case under the same final agency action analysis for APA claims. Echoing the lower court's analysis, it classified the DOJ report as a product of "independent agency decision making." Because the report was purely "informational," the court ruled that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated legal consequences flowing from it. Rather, the harms alleged stemmed from discretionary reliance on the designation by third parties.

We believe that the case is effectively closed.

Margo Schlanger - 09/20/2015
Virginia Weeks - 10/09/2017
Chelsea Rinnig - 02/28/2018
Elizabeth Greiter - 03/20/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Classification / placement
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Justice
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs self-identify as “Juggalos,” or fans of the musical group Insane Clown Posse (“ICP”) and other bands on ICP’s independent record label.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU of Michigan
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2014
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
Docket(s)
2:14-cv-10071 (E.D. Mich.)
CJ-MI-0006-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/09/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-MI-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/08/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 29] (30 F.Supp.3d 648) (E.D. Mich.)
CJ-MI-0006-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/30/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Reversing Dismissal] [Ct. of App. ECF# 33] (801 F.3d 701)
CJ-MI-0006-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 45] (211 F.Supp.3d 994) (E.D. Mich.)
CJ-MI-0006-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 45] (211 F.Supp.2d 994) (E.D. Mich.)
CJ-MI-0006-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/29/2016
Source: Westlaw
Judgment [ECF# 46] (E.D. Mich.)
CJ-MI-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 49] (878 F.3d 162)
CJ-MI-0006-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/18/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Batchelder, Alice Moore (Sixth Circuit, N.D. Ohio)
CJ-MI-0006-0006
Boggs, Danny Julian (Sixth Circuit)
CJ-MI-0006-0006
Cleland, Robert Hardy (E.D. Mich.)
CJ-MI-0006-0003 | CJ-MI-0006-0005 | CJ-MI-0006-0007 | CJ-MI-0006-9001
Kethledge, Raymond M. (Sixth Circuit)
CJ-MI-0006-0006
Komives, Paul J. (E.D. Mich., W.D. Mich.) [Magistrate]
CJ-MI-0006-9001
Sargus, Edmund A. Jr. (S.D. Ohio)
CJ-MI-0006-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bellanca, Joseph A. (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-9001
Boufides, James D. (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-9001
Haddad, Farris F. (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-0001
Hertz, Howard (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-0001 | CJ-MI-0006-9001
Korobkin, Daniel S. (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-0001 | CJ-MI-0006-9001
Moss, Kary L. (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-0001
Palacios, Emily C. (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-9001
Sahu, Saura James (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-0001 | CJ-MI-0006-9001
Steinberg, Michael J. (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-0001 | CJ-MI-0006-9001
Thomson, Elizabeth C. (Michigan)
CJ-MI-0006-0001 | CJ-MI-0006-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Powell, Amy E. (District of Columbia)
CJ-MI-0006-9001

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