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Federal judges finally approve settlement agreement to a Muslim lawsuit that tried to stop NYPD from surveilling mosques.
  More than 22,000 emails to each judge and Mayor DeBlasio made a difference.

Mohammad Elshinawy, Asad Dandia, Masjid At-Taqwa, Masjid Al-Ansar, Muslims Giving Back and Hamid Raza sued the City of New York in an attempt to force the New York Police Department to remove their report titled Radicalization in the West: The Home Grown Threat.   The lawsuit also sought to stop the New York Police Department from surveilling them and their mosques.

Imam Siraj Wahha who runs the Masjid At Taqwa  mosque was the key note speaker at the Garland Texas Islamist rally on January 17, 2015 that called for the defeat of Islamophobia.  "Ready to defeat Islamophobia? This is not an event. It is the beginning of a movement. A movement to defend Prophet Muhammad, his person, and his message. Salla Allahu Alaihe wa Sallam.  This benefit will raise funds to establish a Strategic Communication Center for the Muslim community, which will develop effective responses to anti-Islamic attacks.

Florida Family Association sent out the following email alerts regarding this issue:

  • January 20, 2015 email alert titled Islamists demand that NYPD scrub online report on Islamist terrorism and stop surveillance of mosques. 
  • March 18, 2015 email alert titled APT report clearly shows why US District Court should not stop the NYPD from surveilling mosques. 
  • May 20, 2015 email alert titled ISIS recruitment from Phoenix Mosque for attack in Garland Texas clearly shows why US District Court should not stop the NYPD from surveilling mosques.  

More than 22,000 people sent emails urging the judges overseeing the case and New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio to put public safety first by preserving the New York Police Department as the first line of defense against terrorism in America. 

Florida Family Association reported on January 15, 2016 that the New York Police Department reached a settlement agreement.  The New York Police Department:

•    Did NOT agree to stop surveilling Muslims or mosques.  The mayor will appoint a civilian representative to the NYPD advisory committee; that representative is to be an attorney who is bound by confidentiality rules.  NYPD says it has made standard practice in recent years, including one that bars officers from pursuing investigations in cases in which "race, religion, or ethnicity is the substantial or motivating factor."

•   Did NOT compromise on the core issue of investigation.  Page 13 of the settlement agreement states "Class Counsel and Raza counsel did not get everything that had been sought, but the settlement did address each of the goals identified above, and in the view of counsel in both cases, what was achieved is meaningful protection for the members of the plaintiff class."

•   "Did not admit any wrongdoing, and the city won't pay any damages other than about $1.6 million for the plaintiff's legal fees. The department instead agreed to codify civil rights and other protections required under the court-ordered Handschu decree, which was put in place in response to surveillance used against war protesters in the 1960s and '70s. The decree was relaxed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks to allow police to more freely monitor political activity in public places."  US News & World Report.

•    Agreed to remove their report titled Radicalization in the West: The Home Grown Threat from their website.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in response to the proposed settlement. "Our city's counterterrorism forces are the best in the world, and the NYPD will continue working tirelessly to keep our city safe in the fight against terror while respecting our residents' constitutional rights." NPR reports.

Florida Family Association is not content with the removal of the report or payment of plaintiffs' attorneys' fees.  However, by settling this case with the terms in the proposed settlement agreement, the New York Police Department avoided being ordered to stop surveilling these and other mosques.  Extended litigation and a trial could have resulted in a restraining order, punitive damages and increased legal fees.  The only certainty about litigation is no one is certain of the outcome given judge and jury demographics.

The New York Police Department has led the country for years in the fight against terrorism.  In many cases the New York Police Department has been the first line of defense for the country.  Thankfully, it appears that Millions of Americans, not  just  New Yorkers, will be able to continue to depend upon the New York Police Department to keep them safe from terrorism.

More than fifteen months later the second of two judges remaining in the case approved the settlement agreement in March 2017.
On March 19, 2017 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York approved the Stipulation of Settlement and Order

On March 20, 2017, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued the following orders:

•    ORDER DISMISSING CASE: The Court so orders the parties' Stipulation of Settlement and Order (Dkt. 129 -1]) including Exhibits A & B (Dkts. 129 -2 and 129 -3). The Complaint in this action is dismissed with prejudice. This matter is terminated, except that the Court retains jurisdiction with respect to enforcement of the Settlement. Ordered by Judge Pamela K. Chen on 3/20/2017.

•    ORDER: The Court denies the motion of Hicham Azkour (Dkt. 123 ) to intervene in this action and cancels the oral argument scheduled for March 22, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. on the motion. In light of the parties' settlement of this matter and the termination of this case, as well as other factors that shall be more fully detailed in a written decision to follow, the Court finds that intervention, either as of right or by permission, by Mr. Azkour should not be granted. Ordered by Judge Pamela K. Chen on 3/20/2017. (Abdallah, Fida) (Entered: 03/20/2017)   

Although Hicham Azkour attempted to keep the lawsuit alive the court denied his motion for intervention in their last order.  No more activity has appeared on the case which has been officially dismissed.

The following are reports issued by some opponents to the settlement and choice of civilian monitor:

Al Jazeera  published an article on January 16, 2016 titled “Islamophobic surveillance is here to stay.”  The subtitle stated “A new settlement in New York – although important – will not reform an unrepentant police force."  Aviva’s article stated in part “In short, even with the strengthening of the Handschu Guidelines and the creation of some oversight, New Yorkers will still fundamentally entrust the NYPD to regulate its own use of these invasive investigative techniques. That’s concerning, given the NYPD’s apparent efforts in recent weeks to minimize and obscure the full extent of the spying that happened at Brooklyn College.”

World Socialist Web Site repored on April 6, 2017:  The agreement establishes mechanisms which are supposed to permit oversight of police investigations regarding religious and political activities. However, the settlement establishes, in effect, little more than a rubber stamp by a well-vetted member of the legal establishment to legitimize the continuation of wide-ranging spying by the police. The new civilian monitor will sit on the monthly meetings of an NYPD committee that discusses surveillance operations, and will report periodically or under special circumstances, and have the authority to refer violations to a court for review.  The city announced that the civilian monitor will be Stephen Robinson, a retired federal judge who was once deputy general counsel to the FBI. Muslim groups have voiced criticism of the selection, which was made by the administration of Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio without consultation.

CAIR-NY Denounces Mayor de Blasio’s Surprise Appointment of Intelligence Watchdog March 23, 2017.  The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY), a leading Muslim civil rights group, today denounced Mayor de Blasio’s surprise appointment of Stephen Robinson to serve as the Civilian Representative to the NYPD’s newly reconstituted “Handschu Committee.”  The civilian representative is intended to serve as an independent watchdog on NYPD intelligence division investigations, ensuring compliance with the landmark Handschu v. Special Services Division consent decree, which restricts abusive, discriminatory, and unconstitutional surveillance.

Author: ffa   20170407   Category: Legal  FFA: on
Tags: Raza v. City of New York

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