Jan 31 2014

The price of justice: 9 years, $3.9 million, and counting

On January 2, 2005, Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim found out she was on the US government’s no-fly list when she was denied boarding, arrested, handcuffed, and locked in a cell for two hours when she tried to check in for a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii.

Just over nine years later, on January 14, 2014, a Federal judge entered judgment in Dr. Ibrahim’s favor following the trial in her lawsuit challenging her placement on the no-fly list, her mistreatment by Federal and San Francisco government employees and contractors, and the denial of her right to due process of law.

Dr. Ibrahim’s pro bono lawyers have now applied to Judge William Alsup for reimbursement by the government defendants of their costs: $3.6 million for 11,000 billable hours of attorneys’ and paralegals’ time, plus more than $300,000 in out-of-pocket expenses (including fees charged by the defendants to Dr. Ibrahim’s lawyers for obtaining clearances to see evidence alleged by the defendants to contain Sensitive Security Information).

The total price of justice: Just under $4 million dollars — and counting.  The government defendants have until February 13th (30 days after the entry of Judge Alsup’s judgment) to decide whether to appeal that judgment to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where they have already lost two appeals of pre-trial rulings in Dr. Ibrahim’s lawsuit.  If the government appeals the judgment, payment of their fees and expenses (which depends on Dr. Ibrahim having “prevailed” in the litigation) will be further delayed while more costs accrue.

The brief in support of the motion for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs by Dr. Ibrahim’s attorneys chronicles a litany of bad faith and dirty tricks on the part of the defendants’ lawyers, such as continuing to withhold evidence from Dr. Ibrahim;s lawyers on the grounds that it was SSI, years after Dr. Ibrahim’s lawyers had been cleared by the defendants to receive SSI for purposes of the case.

Only a summary of Judge Alsup’s opinion has been made public. Unless otherwise ordered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the full opinion will be made public on April 15, 2014. In the meantime, according to the latest filing on behalf of Dr. Ibrahim, the government defendants are obstructing release of any further details:

Defendants’ overreaching behavior regarding secrecy in this matter continues to this day. The Court ordered the parties to meet and confer on release of a redacted version of the Court’s sealed opinion dated January 14, 2014. The sealed opinion would allow plaintiff and the public to understand more about what happened in the case and contains many facts for which the government asserts no privilege. Plaintiff has twice inquired of defendants regarding their proposed redactions, once on January 15, 2013, and again on January 24, 2013. Defendants have not provided their proposed redactions to plaintiff.

3 thoughts on “The price of justice: 9 years, $3.9 million, and counting

  1. After being informed (as quoted at the end of the article above) that the government defendants had failed to give Dr. Ibrahim’s lawyers notice of what portion(s) of Judge Alsup’s judgement they think must be kept secret, Judge Alsup has ordered the government to file a redacted version of his opinion by this Thursday, February 6th:


    “[Tt]e government is hereby ordered to file a copy of the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order for Relief redacted to the minimum extent necessary to protect the items the government contends are privileged from public disclosure. The filing shall be made by FEBRUARY 6 AT NOON.”

  2. Pingback: Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » More details of Judge Alsup’s decision in “no-fly” case

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