November 21, 2007

The 6 imams case survives a motion to dismiss.

In a decision by U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery:
According to a police report, the men were arrested because three had one-way tickets and no checked baggage; most had requested seat belt extensions; a passenger reported that they had prayed "very loudly" before the flight and criticized U.S. involvement with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and they were seated widely throughout the aircraft.

Montgomery said it is "dubious" that a reasonable person would conclude from those facts that the imams were about to interfere with the crew or aircraft. She said the plaintiffs had stated a plausible claim that MAC officers violated their constitutional rights...

Montgomery, considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, said the facts they alleged "support the existence of an unconstitutional custom of arresting individuals without probable cause based on their race."
Power Line reacts:
However disappointing Judge Montgomery's order, I think it is good that we will learn the facts behind plaintiffs' lawsuit. The highly capable lawyer representing the Metropolitan Airports Commission is my friend and former law partner Tim Schupp; he will leave no stone unturned on behalf of the MAC. I think it is safe to say that the case of the flying imams one in which the truth should be known, and in which the truth will set us free.
Yes, let's get to the factfinding. No need to throw this out on a motion to dismiss when the plaintiff's version of the facts must be taken as true.


Wurly said...

I haven't read the opinon, but was there a qualified immunity defense raised? If so, then the decision would be immediately appealable. Whether probable cause existed is an objective test and is a question of law for the court to decide.

George said...

The new book 1919 about America after WWI discusses citizen's patriotic leagues. Many had quiet government support. They were vigilante groups.

One one occasion, the members of NYC group blocked exits from Coney Island (?) to check men's draft cards. Thousands of bathers had to wait hours. Men found without cards were taken by waiting police to jail.

Somehow our democracy survived.

Sounds awful. I don't recommend anything like that today, but, ya know, one of these days, a bad incident's going to occur because some screener was too embarrassed to be seen as politically incorrect.

Indeed, there's a quote at Wiki from a former air marshall who says, the situation "will make crews and passengers in the future second-guess reporting these events, thus compromising the aircraft's security out of fear of being labeled a dogmatist or a bigot, or being sued," and that "Instilling politically correct fears into the minds of airline passengers is nothing less than psychological terrorism."

Zeb Quinn said...

I'm still trying to figure out why in this post 9-11 world it's deemed imprudent and wrong to be a trite spooked when a group of Muslim passengers begin doing odd things including ostentatiously praying/chanting "Allah is great" intermixed with "death to America," flying on one-way tickets with no baggage, and selecting seats distributed throughout the aircraft. I'm thinking that the pulling out of these hombres for a closer look goes down in the ledger as doing one's job right.

And I'm also guessing that this was all a big fat set up, and we are at this point here litigating it by design.

Richard Fagin said...


There is a qualified immunity defense for certain public officials, but for purposes of the judge allowing the case to continue to this point it doesn't matter. The issue of appeal would only come up if the case had been decided by a final judgment. Generally, without a final judgment from a trial court the appeals courts do not even have jurisdiction to take an appeal.

What the trial judge decided is that the plaintiffs had in fact stated a "claim upon which relief can be granted." The defendants had filed a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), which provides for dismissal of the case if the allegations set forth in the complaint, taken as true for purposes of the motion, do not state facts that add up to a civil claim recognized under the law.

Whether or not the defendants had a qualified immunity defense is a separate issue from whether the plaintiffs allegations state a claim, and the defendants will have opportunity to plead and prove that defense. The case may wind up being decided by summary judgment (doesn't go to trial) based on the qualified iummunity defense, but that is for another day.

I'd ask Prof. Althouse for a grade on that answer, but I'd probably be disappointed with the grade. Law school was such a drag.

Simon said...

Richard, I thought that the Supreme Court rejected that position re immunity in Scott v. Harris last term?

Wurly said...


I stated that I'd hadn't read the opinion because I don't know whether they'd raised a qualified immunity defense. If they did, there is a explicit exception to to final order rule when a lower court denies a claim of immunity- it falls under the collateral order doctrine. Appellate Courts routinely hear appeals from denials of 12(b)(6) motions claiming qualified immunity, and no deference is given to the trial court's ruling.

brylun said...

Montgomery, Ann D.
Born 1949 in Litchfield, MN

Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U. S. District Court, District of Minnesota
Nominated by William J. Clinton on November 27, 1995

kimsch said...

Maybe by allowing this to go to trial instead of just dismissing it out of hand we can get a definitive ruling on the issue.

Trooper York said...

Angry imans flashing belts
abusing our freedoms
seeking more gelt,
Demanding all their rights
acting as provocateurs
conjuring up slights.

(Apologies to ricpic)

jeff said...

"Montgomery said it is "dubious" that a reasonable person would conclude from those facts that the imams were about to interfere with the crew or aircraft."

Would that be a reasonable person who is looking at the written complaint after the fact or a reasonable person who was actually on that plane? Because I don't think "dubious" is the correct word for those on the plane.

Richard Fagin said...

I was right. My answer gets a "D".

Simon said...

Brylun, we can't go down that road. If we start dismissing every case we disagree with simply because it was decided by a Clinton or Carter appointee, what principled basis can we use when the left starts doing the same thing with cases that they disagree with decided by a Bush 43 appointee (which, mark my words, they will)?

JohnAnnArbor said...

It will be interesting if they can even get the witnesses to testify. I find it hard to believe that CAIR would be above a little witness intimidation. And I believe one of the alarmed passengers was an Arabic-speaking Muslim; THAT fellow will need police protection if he testifies!

Chip Ahoy said...

Dear Flying Imams.

I always visualize a flying carpet when you come up in the news. LOL. Bros, thanks for being so insistent about drawing attention to yourselves and your lovely religion. Tell me, where does a guy sign up?

P. Rich said...

"...we will learn the facts behind plaintiffs' lawsuit"...

No, we won't. We will only learn what the plaintiffs assert, which we already have as the basis for the suit. Any dark background - CAIR instigation and motivation, for example - will remain in the shadows. What muslim-inspired crap, all the way around.