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Case Name Color of Change v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security FA-NY-0007
Docket / Court 1:16-cv-08215 ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Attorney Organization Center for Constitutional Rights
Case Summary
On October 20, 2016, Color of Change and Center for Constitutional Rights, nonprofit civil rights advocacy and communications organizations, brought this action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") in the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, represented by an attorney from the ... read more >
On October 20, 2016, Color of Change and Center for Constitutional Rights, nonprofit civil rights advocacy and communications organizations, brought this action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") in the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, represented by an attorney from the Milton Kramer Law Clinic at Case Western, an attorney from the Center for Constitutional Rights, and an attorney for Clifford Chance, sued the U.S. Department of Homeland security ("DHS") and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), seeking declaratory, injunctive, and other appropriate relief to compel the defendants to produce records related to federal government surveillance and monitoring of protest activities related to the Movement for Black Lives ("MBL").

Following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, MBL gained national scope and influence, drawing public attention to police violence and advocating for police reform and racial justice. The plaintiffs allege in their complaint that government documents, news reports, and first-hand accounts demonstrate that the defendants, and state and local law enforcement agencies, have engaged in surveillance and monitoring of MBL demonstrations and individual activists aligned with the movement, using tactics and measures commonly reserved for counterterrorism and national security related purposes. They further allege that this monitoring of legitimate protest activities undermines the First Amendment's protection of political speech, and will chill valuable public debate about police violence, including use of deadly force, criminal justice, and racial inequities.

On July 5 2016, the plaintiffs submitted their FOIA request to DHS and the FBI:

DHS
On July 18, 2016, DHS's privacy office sent a letter to the plaintiffs acknowledging receipt of the request. DHS also denied the plaintiffs' request for expedited processing and a fee waiver, which the plaintiffs appealed. On August 29, 2016, DHS acknowledged that it had received the appeal, but never responded to the appeal.

On September 27, 2016, the plaintiffs received a response from the Office of Intelligence & Analysis, a component of DHS, claiming that a search of its files revealed no records responsive to the plaintiffs' request. The plaintiffs appealed that decision based on the Office of Intelligence and Analysis' failure to perform an adequate search for records and its improper reliance on FOIA exemptions to avoid searching for, or producing, responsive records. On October 20, the plaintiff received an acknowledgment from DHS regarding the appeal, but did not receive any other response or correspondence.

FBI
On July 28, 2016, the FBI sent a letter acknowledging receipt of the plaintiffs' request. Unlike DHS, the FBI granted the plaintiffs' request for expedited processing, however, it did not indicate whether processing had begun or when it would be complete. On September 20, 2016, the plaintiffs sent the FBI a letter requesting that the FBI notify them of when to expect to receive documents responsive to their request, but the FBI never responded.

Since the complaint was filed on October 20, 2016 there has not been much movement on the case, however, an initial pretrial conference has been set for January 20, 2016, before U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III.

Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 11/17/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Records Disclosure
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. ยง 552
Defendant(s) United States Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description Color of Change and Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy and communications organization, and Center for Constitutional Rights, a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Center for Constitutional Rights
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
1:16-cv-8215 (S.D.N.Y.)
FA-NY-0007-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/12/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
FA-NY-0007-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/20/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Pauley, William H. III (S.D.N.Y.)
FA-NY-0007-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cover, Avidan Yehuda (Ohio)
FA-NY-0007-0001 | FA-NY-0007-9000
Farah, Omar (New York)
FA-NY-0007-0001 | FA-NY-0007-9000
Schwarz, Ghita (New York)
FA-NY-0007-9000

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