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Case Name Knight First Amendment Institute v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security NS-DC-0108
Docket / Court 1:17-cv-00548 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
National Security
Special Collection Trump Administration FOIA cases
Case Summary
On Mar. 27, 2017, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiff sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Represented by its own ... read more >
On Mar. 27, 2017, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiff sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Represented by its own staff and the law firm Jenner & Block, plaintiff alleged that defendants had violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and requested injunctive relief.

According to the complaint, plaintiff is a nonprofit working to safeguard freedoms of speech and of the press. Plaintiff alleged that DHS's component U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has since 2009 been authorized to conduct searches of individuals' electronic devices at the US borders, without individualized suspicion, and to detain indefinitely these devices. CBP has searched and seized thousands of devices, including those belonging to US citizens. Furthermore, plaintiff alleged, the number of such searches and seizures has risen sharply since 2015 and has especially increased since the beginning of 2017 under the new Presidential administration.

The complaint explained that plaintiff was especially concerned with the effect of these searches and seizures on press freedom, because CBP has accessed sensitive information on journalists' devices. Furthermore, plaintiff was concerned that CBP was targeting Muslims for such searches. Overall, because of the general scope and effects of these searches, plaintiff believed that CBP's activity may violate the First and Fourth Amendments, and sought more information to disseminate to the public.

To learn more about CBP's activity, plaintiff filed FOIA requests with DHS, CBP, and ICE, for records detailing the government's searches since 2012. Plaintiff made these requests on Mar. 15, 2017 and requested expedited processing. Plaintiff argued the topic was of urgent public interest, given the increase in border searches since early 2017, and reports of some CBP officers coercing travelers into surrendering their devices. As of the filing of the Mar. 27 complaint, none of the agencies had communicated any decision on the FOIA requests, thus failing to meet their 10-day statutory deadline to do so. Because no administrative remedies exist, plaintiff brought this injunctive lawsuit.

On Mar. 28, 2017, the case was assigned to Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on Apr. 19 with an update on its allegations and with the addition of CBP as another defendant. Although ICE had since granted plaintiff's expedited FOIA request, it had failed to produce any records. DHS had denied the expedited processing request with minimal explanation, and CBP had failed to respond. Defendants filed an answer on May 3.

The parties have submitted joint status reports on June 6, Aug. 14, and Oct. 16. Subsequent reports are due every 45 days after that.

The Oct. 16 status report specified that the parties agreed that DHS' Office of Inspector General (OIG) had finished its search, and that CBP would conduct a preliminary responsiveness review by Oct. 31 and would start releasing non-exempt responsive records in mid-November. However, the parties disagreed on DHS's duty to determine the number of responsive records and to conduct a separate search for certain items, as well as how many items it could review per month. The parties were also discussing the scope of certain ICE and CBP duties. If the parties could not reach a resolution on disputed issues, plaintiff planned to move for summary judgment.

The most recent status report, of Nov. 30, specified that DHS would release all potentially-responsive and non-exempt records by approximately Dec. 1, and that CBP had released a first round and would release the next round by Dec. 22. The scope of ICE and CBP's obligations, as well as the general timeline for release, remained unresolved. Plaintiff requested a Court conference but defendants believed the parties could work out a production schedule themselves.

This case is ongoing.

Ava Morgenstern - 12/01/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Search policies
Immigration/Border
Border police
Constitutional rights
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552
Defendant(s) U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff is a nonprofit concerned with safeguarding the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
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
Case Listing NS-DC-0110 : Muslim Advocates v. United States Department of Homeland Security (D.D.C.)
Additional Resources
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  Knight Institute v. DHS — FOIA Suit on Border Searches of Electronic Devices
www.knightcolumbia.org
Date: Sep. 15, 2017
By: Knight First Amendment Institute
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:17-cv-548 (D.D.C.)
NS-DC-0108-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/22/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
NS-DC-0108-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint for Injunctive Relief [ECF# 10]
NS-DC-0108-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/19/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Joint Status Report [ECF# 24]
NS-DC-0108-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/16/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Chutkan, Tanya Sue (D.D.C.)
NS-DC-0108-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abdo, Alex (New York)
NS-DC-0108-0001 | NS-DC-0108-0002 | NS-DC-0108-0003 | NS-DC-0108-9000
DeCell, Caroline M. (New York)
NS-DC-0108-0001 | NS-DC-0108-0002 | NS-DC-0108-0003 | NS-DC-0108-9000
Fallow, Katherine A. (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0108-0001 | NS-DC-0108-0002 | NS-DC-0108-0003 | NS-DC-0108-9000
Hellman , Matthew S. (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0108-0001 | NS-DC-0108-0002 | NS-DC-0108-0003 | NS-DC-0108-9000
Jaffer, Jameel (New York)
NS-DC-0108-0001 | NS-DC-0108-0002 | NS-DC-0108-0003 | NS-DC-0108-9000
Kohlmann, Susan J. (New York)
NS-DC-0108-0001 | NS-DC-0108-0002 | NS-DC-0108-0003 | NS-DC-0108-9000
Rubin, Joshua H. (New York)
NS-DC-0108-0001 | NS-DC-0108-0002 | NS-DC-0108-9000
Stewart, Michael E. (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0108-0002 | NS-DC-0108-0003 | NS-DC-0108-9000
Wilkens, Scott B. (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0108-0001 | NS-DC-0108-0002 | NS-DC-0108-0003 | NS-DC-0108-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Glass, David M (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0108-0003 | NS-DC-0108-9000
Liu, Jessie K. (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0108-0003
Readler, Chad A. (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0108-0003
Shapiro, Elizabeth J. (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0108-0003

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