Jewel v. National Security Agency

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Standing
  • Date Filed: 12-29-2011
  • Case #: 10-15616; 10-15638
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judges M. Hawkins and Pregerson
  • Full Text Opinion

“Concrete injury” was found--in the context of statutory and constitutional claims of unlawful government surveillance and warrantless eavesdropping--where allegations specified a single telecommunications company and the equipment used at the particular facility were where claimant’s personal communications were intercepted. Also, no heightened standing requirement existed simply because the case involved government officials in the national security context.

The district court denied Carolyn Jewel and other residential telephone customers (hereinafter “Jewel”) standing to bring their statutory and constitutional claims against the government. Jewel asserted claims under the First and Fourth Amendments; the separation of powers doctrine; and three surveillance statutes--the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”), 50 U.S.C. §§ 1801, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510, the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2710, and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701. Article III standing requires allegation of an injury that is fairly traceable to the conduct at issue and is redressable. The district court dismissed with prejudice and without leave to amend after considering only the first prong. The Ninth Circuit reviewed de novo on all three prongs and found sufficient particularity alleged where (1) Jewel named a single telecommunications company and described in detail the specific equipment used at the particular facility where her personal communications were intercepted; (2) the alleged invasion of privacy was directly linked to an acknowledged surveillance program; and (3) Jewel sought an injunction and damages. The court stressed that “the fact that a harm is widely shared does not necessarily render it [] generalized”; that claims are not political questions merely because they arise from political conduct in a highly politicized context; nor is the standing requirement heightened simply because the case involves government officials in the national security context. The Court reversed dismissal of Jewel’s complaint and remanded for consideration on the government’s alternative argument of state secrets privilege. In regards to Shubert's complaint, the Court reversed and remanded for leave to amend. REVERSED and REMANDED.

Advanced Search