June 24th marked a major victory for our clients in the “Six Imams” case, with Judge Montgomery issuing a sharply worded opinion and order which, for all intents and purposes, voided a law that would proliferate racial profiling and discrimination against minorities–particularly those of Muslim or Arab descent by extending immunity to law enforcement officers. In its written decision, the Court denied the defendant airport officers’ motion for summary judgment, and affirmed an individual’s freedom from unreasonable search and seizure under the 4th Amendment.
The Court clearly ruled that the actions of the Imams prior to their flight did not justify their detention and arrest, stating that “the right not to be arrested in the absence of probable cause is clearly established and, based on the allegations … no reasonable officer could have believed that the arrest of the Plaintiffs was proper.“ The ruling explained, further, that the Imams were subjected to the “extreme fear and humiliation of being falsely identified as dangerous terrorists.”
The defendants’ motions were centered around a 2007 law passed by Congress directly in response to this case. The statute (6 U.S.C. 1104) was then signed by George Bush to be retroactively applied to this incident. The new law aimed to grant immunity to bystanders who reported suspicious activity. However, the language also granted vague immunity to law enforcement and airline officials.
In its decision, the Court denied the defendant airport officers their motion for summary judgment, stating that the new law did not extend any new immunity for law enforcement officers; law enforcement officers cannot violate clearly established rights, such as freedom from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and then hide behind broad statutory immunity.
Understandably, the case has generated a significant amount of debate on the power of law enforcement to limit personal freedoms in the name of security, especially in the context of air travel. Judge Montgomery’s carefully considered opinion and order evinces a meticulous understanding of the relevant issues, taking special care to explain that “the specter of 9/11” cannot be used as an absolute excuse to suspend Constitutional rights and guarantees.
For a more comprehensive resource on the ruling or the case in general, read the CAIR press release.