Sep 07 2007

Ninth Circuit dismisses ID to enter courthouse case

The Foti v. McHugh case challenging the identification requirement to enter a courthouse was dismissed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week in a startlingly dismissive manner. Despite the court’s appointment the law firm of Fenwick & West to act as pro bono counsel (IDP acting as co-counsel) for appellants after they had completed their own briefings pro se, the complete rebriefing of the case by all parties, and the oral argument last April, the court dismissed the case by means of an unpublished memorandum deficient of any meaningful legal analysis.

Appellant Foti was denied access to the Federal courthouse when he tried to enter it to represent himself when contesting a motion to dismiss in a case he had brought on a separate matter against the Federal government. Foti does not have ID and correctly states that no law requires him to get one – only that there are assorted punishments for not doing so. Foti was denied access to the court to argue on his behalf because he doesn’t own ID and his case was dismissed. Foti then brought another suit challenging the requirement to show ID to enter the courthouse which was then dismissed by the District Court and that dismissal is now affirmed by the Appellate Court.

The two-page memorandum simply states that Foti, and his friend Augustine who tried to accompany him and also owns no ID, “do not have a constitutional right to enter the federal building anonymously.” The court then cited two cases that did not support their statement.

Unfortunately, the question presented to the court was not whether anyone has a constitutional right to do anything anonymously, but rather whether the identification requirement itself is an impediment to the free exercise of appellants many important and protected constitutional rights exercised in the courthouse. This was brooked absolutely no analysis. By dismissing this case in such an off-hand manner the court is desperately trying to screw back on the lid of something they wish they had never opened. However, in doing so, they have screwed the lid on crooked and this matter will not remain contained.

Stay tuned.