Litigation

Current Litigation

First Appeals Court Hearing to Address Mass Surveillance

ACLU Challenges Warrantless "Backdoor" Searches

July 6, 2016 - For the first time, a federal appeals court heard oral argument on the merits in a case challenging the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international communications conducted under Section 702 of FISA, which allows the NSA to engage in warrantless surveillance of Americans who communicate with tens of thousands of targets located abroad.

In 2012, Mohammed Mohamud, a Somalia-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was convicted of plotting to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. After his conviction, the government belatedly notified Mohamud that it had relied on Section 702 surveillance to obtain his communications without a warrant in the course of its investigation. Mohamud argued that the resulting evidence should have been suppressed and asked for a new trial. His challenge to the surveillance is now on appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, U.S. v. Mohamud, and were granted time to argue at the hearing today. 

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ACLU Challenges Use of Disorderly Conduct Law Against Protester

rights of protesters imageApril 18, 2016 - Attorneys on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a friend of the court brief in the trial of Teressa Raiford in support of her free speech rights. In August 2015, Teressa Raiford was arrested and booked on charges of disorderly conduct stemming from a protest in Portland that marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown. The brief urges the court to consider the legislative intent behind the disorderly conduct statute. 

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Oregon Schools Must Protect Transgender Students

UPDATE: January 20, 2015 - We sent a letter outlining the rights of transgender students to the Dallas School Board ahead of a special meeting held last night. The letter read, in part:

"The refusal to allow transgender students to use the same facilities used by other students in accordance with their gender identity violates Title IX and impairs students’ ability to learn, grow, and thrive in the school environment. Research shows that denying transgender people access to facilities that correspond to the gender they live every day holds serious consequences for them, negatively impacting their education, employment, health, and participation in public life. Conversely, full acceptance of a student’s gender identity—including allowing them access to gender-appropriate facilities —goes a long way toward providing a welcoming environment and a positive educational experience. Moreover, disclosure of a student’s gender identity, without their permission, is against the law and can have serious, long-term negative repercussions. It is critical for schools to respect the privacy of transgender students, even if the school is operating with no ill intent."

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Oregon Anti-Bush Protesters Granted Class Status in ACLU Suit

Click Here to Read an Important Notice for People Involved in the 2004 Jacksonville Demonstration

Jacksonville Protesters’ Case Moves Forward After a Disappointing Supreme Court Ruling

November 30, 2015 - A group of protesters in southern Oregon, who are suing local police for excessive force and unlawful arrest, have been granted class action status for some of the claims in their lawsuit. The protesters, who in 2004 were ordered to leave an area where then-president George W. Bush was having dinner in Jacksonville, Oregon, have fought for years to have their claims heard in court.

In October 2004, U.S. Secret Service agents directed state and local police in Jacksonville to move an anti-Bush picket line of more than 250 peaceful demonstrators while allowing a group of pro-Bush demonstrators to remain in the same area undisturbed. The police effort turned violent as the officers clad in riot gear used batons, "less-lethal" munitions, and chemical agents to move the multigenerational group of anti-Bush demonstrators. The ACLU of Oregon filed a federal lawsuit against the Secret Service as well as state and local police agencies, and the individual agents and officers, seeking damages and an injunction against such governmental abuse in the future.

“The police took things too far when they pushed protesters and used pepper spray and batons on the group that included families with young children,”  said Steven Wilker, a lawyer with the Portland-based Tonkon Torp law firm who represents the protestors pro bono on behalf of the ACLU of Oregon.

The protesters have yet to have their case heard in court because the Secret Service, claiming qualified immunity, moved to have the case against them dismissed.

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Speech, Trademark, and Rock & Roll

UPDATE (9/29/16): The United States Supreme Court has announced it will hear the case to decide if The Slants have the First Amendment Right to use their name.

The Slants Band photoOctober 1, 2015 - Lawyers from the ACLU of Oregon and the ACLU filed an amicus brief with the Federal Circuit in support of an Asian-American band appealing the denial of a trademark for their name, “The Slants.”

Founded in 2006, The Slants are a household name in the Portland rock scene. Self-labeled the world’s only “Chinatown dance rock band,” the Asian heritage of its four members influences their music, lyrics, and image. The bandmates chose to name themselves The Slants as a reference to their perspective (or ‘slant’) on life as people of color. Additionally, it would help re-appropriate a racially-charged term and remove its derogatory sting. Simon Shiao Tam, the band’s founder and bassist, applied to register the band’s name as a federally recognized trademark. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied The Slants application pursuant to federal law thatgives the PTO the authority to reject trademarks it deems disparaging.

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National Organization for Marriage Appeal for Intervention Dismissed!

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismisses the National Organization for Marriage’s ("NOM") appeal for intervention in Geiger vs. Kitzhaber and Rummell vs. Kitzhaber

August 27, 2014 - On May 19, Judge Michael McShane struck down Oregon’s laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage. NOM had sought to intervene in that case, which Judge McShane denied. NOM then tried to appeal that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Today’s decision dismissing NOM’s appeal confirms that NOM has no standing to participate in the case.

“In the past year there have been more than 30 court rulings overturning state bans on marriage between same-sex couples,” said David Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon. “The legal consensus is clear that these bans are unconstitutional. Marriage is a fundamental freedom, and freedom means freedom for everyone.”

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Court Rules No Fly List Process Is Unconstitutional and Must Be Reformed

Court Orders Government to Give Plaintiffs in ACLU Lawsuit a Chance to Clear Their Names

June 24, 2014 – In a landmark ruling, a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional the government’s procedures for people on the No Fly List to challenge their inclusion. The decision came in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Americans who found themselves on the list without any notice, reasons, or meaningful way to get off it. 

The judge ordered the government to create a new process that remedies these shortcomings, calling the current process “wholly ineffective” and a violation of the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. The ruling also granted a key request in the lawsuit, ordering the government to tell the ACLU’s clients why they are on the No Fly List and give them the opportunity to challenge their inclusion on the list before the judge. 

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Court Rules Warrant Is Required to Access Drug Prescription Database

Oregon PDMP v. U.S. DEA

RxFebruary 11, 2014 - Portland - For the first time, a federal judge has ruled that patients have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their drug prescription records, and that law enforcement must obtain a warrant in order to search such information. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oregon represented a group of Oregon patients and a physician in the lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“This is a victory for privacy and for the constitutional rights of anyone who ever gets drug prescriptions,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who argued the case last month. “The ruling recognizes that confidential medical records are entitled to the full protection of the Fourth Amendment. The court rightly rejected the government’s extreme argument that patients give up their privacy rights by receiving medical treatment from doctors and pharmacists.”

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Portland Airport Runs Anti-Clearcut Ad After ACLU Court Victory

Judge had denied Port of Portland’s request to stay decision that Port violated Oregon Constitution when it refused ad because of its content

January 1, 2014 –An anti-clearcutting ad began running at the Portland airport on New Year’s Day following a Multnomah County Circuit Court refusal to issue a stay on its earlier decision that the Port of Portland had violated the free speech rights of a coalition of conservation organizations when it refused to run the ad.

The rulings came in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU Foundation of Oregon which was handled by ACLU volunteer cooperating attorney Tom Christ. The initial Multnomah County Circuit Court ruling on December 13 held that the Port, which manages the airport, had violated the Oregon Constitution’s free expression protections when it rejected the ad because it dealt with a “political” issue.

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Scappoose School District Withdraws Policy and Settles ACLU Lawsuit

June 17, 2014 – The ACLU of Oregon announced today that it has settled a lawsuit against the Scappoose School District on behalf of a high school student and her mother over a policy that had prohibited any communications about the school’s dance team by team members or their families.

Under the terms of the settlement, the district agreed that its social media policy had violated the free speech rights of students and their parents. In response to the ACLU’s lawsuit, the school district withdrew the policy in January and worked with the ACLU to finalize an appropriate settlement that included a written apology sent in a recent newsletter to the school community.

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