American Baptist Churches in the USA v. Meese, No. C-85-3255 RFP.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Citation666 F. Supp. 1358
Docket NumberNo. C-85-3255 RFP.
Decision Date30 March 1987
PartiesAMERICAN BAPTIST CHURCHES IN THE U.S.A., et al., Plaintiffs, v. Edwin MEESE III, and Alan Nelson, Defendants.

666 F. Supp. 1358

AMERICAN BAPTIST CHURCHES IN THE U.S.A., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Edwin MEESE III, and Alan Nelson, Defendants.

No. C-85-3255 RFP.

United States District Court, N.D. California.

March 30, 1987.


666 F. Supp. 1359
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
666 F. Supp. 1360
Ellen Yaroshefsky, Morton Stavis, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York City, Marc Van Der Hout, Abby Ginzberg, National Lawyers Guild, Ephraim Margolin, Sandra Coliver, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiffs

Joseph P. Russoniello, U.S. Atty., Andrew M. Wolfe, Asst. U.S. Atty., San Francisco, Cal., for defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

PECKHAM, Chief Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Defendants Edwin Meese III, Attorney General of the United States, and Alan Nelson, Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, move to dismiss this case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

BACKGROUND

This case is brought by two groups of plaintiffs, each of which asserts distinct and independent causes of action. The first group of plaintiffs is composed of various religious organizations, which sue on their own behalf and on behalf of their members. These organizations allege that, "as a matter of religious faith and practice, they have determined to offer sanctuary to persons from El Salvador and Guatemala." Complaint ¶ 1. They contend that the defendants' prosecutions of religious sanctuary workers under 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a), the criminal harboring and transporting statute, interferes unconstitutionally with their first amendment right to the free exercise of religion. They seek preliminary and permanent injunctions barring defendants from continuing or commencing any prosecutions of persons affiliated with the religious movement of sanctuary, as well as a declaratory judgment that such individuals are entitled to provide assistance to aliens in this country who are seeking refuge from El Salvador and Guatemala.1

The second group of plaintiffs is composed of three Central American refugee service organizations, which sue on their own behalf and on behalf of refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala. These organizations contend that international treaties and customary international law confer upon Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees the rights to temporary refuge in this country. In addition, these plaintiffs argue that the defendants' discriminatory application of immigration laws violates the fifth amendment right of persons from El Salvador and Guatemala to equal protection of the laws. Finally, the plaintiffs have asserted a tort action for the reckless endangering of refugees' lives by willfully sending them to countries where they are subject to wrongful death, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional harm. The refugee organizations seek preliminary and injunctive relief "barring the defendants from arresting and deporting Salvadorans and Guatemalans to those countries until such time as war, prosecution and the commission of human rights violations in those countries have ceased," as well as "a declaratory judgment that persons fleeing war, persecution and widespread human rights violations in Guatemala

666 F. Supp. 1361
and El Salvador are entitled to temporary refuge within the United States until such time as those conditions no longer exist in those countries." Complaint at 51

A memorandum of amici curiae had been submitted in support of the plaintiffs by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and Human Rights Advocates. This memorandum asserts that the refugees have a fundamental due process right not to be returned to countries where they face a substantial risk of suffering violations of basic human rights.

In their motion to dismiss, defendants challenge the standing of both groups of plaintiffs to raise the claims asserted. They also take the position that neither group has stated viable claims upon which relief could be granted. They therefore urge that the court dismiss the case in its entirety.

DISCUSSION

I. Standing of Religious Organizations to Assert First Amendment Claims

In order to determine whether a plaintiff has standing to assert a legal claim, courts must consider both constitutional and prudential limitations on their authority. To satisfy the basic requirements for standing under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff must demonstrate the existence of three factors: (1) a threatened or actual distinct and palpable injury to the plaintiff; (2) a fairly traceable causal connection between that injury and the challenged conduct of the defendant; and (3) a substantial likelihood that the relief requested will redress or prevent the injury. See Olagues v. Russoniello, 797 F.2d 1511, 1517 n. 7 (9th Cir.1986); see also Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 3324-25, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984).

In addition to these three constitutional limitations, the courts have also developed the following three prudential limitations on standing: (1) the plaintiff must assert his own rights and "cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties," Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2205, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975); (2) the plaintiff's injury must not be "shared in substantially equal measure by all or a large class of citizens," id.; and (3) the plaintiff's interest must be "arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question." Association of Data Processing Service Organizations v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 153, 90 S.Ct. 827, 829-30, 25 L.Ed.2d 184 (1970). See generally McMichael v. County of Napa, 709 F.2d 1268, 1270 (9th Cir.1983). In determining whether the plaintiffs have satisfied the constitutional and prudential requirements for standing, we must accept as true the facts stated in the plaintiff's complaint. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2206, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975) ("For purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss for want of standing, both the trial and reviewing courts must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and must construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party.").

The plaintiffs here allege that the prosecutions of religious sanctuary workers, and the threat of such prosecutions, "have the purpose and effect of preventing or discouraging members or the staff of religious organizations from participating in the religious practice of sanctuary and directly interfere with the plaintiffs' performance of their religious duties." Complaint ¶ 2. The plaintiffs further allege:

Plaintiffs' performance of their religious obligations to refugees requires the willing voluntary support of large numbers of their constituents in order to provide shelter and food for refugees. The fear engendered by the prosecutions aforesaid deters some individuals from rendering assistance to refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala and thereby interferes with plaintiffs' performance of their religious duties and the exercise of their rights under the first amendment.

Complaint ¶ 53. According to the plaintiffs, this interference with their first amendment rights is directly attributable to the defendants' actions and would be

666 F. Supp. 1362
remedied if the court granted the injunctive and declaratory relief sought

Defendants counter that plaintiffs have done no more than allege their own subjective fear of prosecution, and have failed to demonstrate that they or any of their members are actually imminently threatened with prosecution under the statute. Defendants claim it to be "settled law" that "allegations of subjective `chill' are not an adequate substitute for a claim of specific present objective harm or a threat of specific future harm." Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, 13-14, 92 S.Ct. 2318, 2325-26, 33 L.Ed.2d 154 (1972). Furthermore, defendants interpret O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 94 S.Ct. 669, 38 L.Ed.2d 674 (1974), to hold that constitutional challenges to the enforcement of a criminal statute may only be brought by one against whom prosecution is "imminent."

Defendants have read into O'Shea a broader principle than it actually pronounced. In that case, the Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue a magistrate and a circuit court judge for their allegedly discriminatory pattern and practice of bond-setting and sentencing in criminal cases. None of the plaintiffs there claimed to be serving unlawful sentences, and none were on trial or awaiting trial before the defendants. In stating its decision that the plaintiffs lacked standing, the Court carefully limited its holding: "Under these circumstances, where respondents do not claim any constitutional right to engage in conduct proscribed by ... presumably permissible state laws, or indicate that it is otherwise their intention to so conduct themselves, the threat of future injury from the alleged course of conduct they attack is simply too remote to satisfy the case-or-controversy requirement and permit adjudication by a federal court." Id. at 498, 94 S.Ct. at 677. Here, the plaintiffs do claim a constitutional right to engage in the proscribed conduct, and they do indicate that it is their intention to engage in such conduct. Thus, O'Shea is inapplicable.

Laird is also not directly on point. There, the plaintiffs challenged an Army civilian surveillance system on first amendment grounds. "The plaintiffs, however, were not targets of the surveillance, thus any chilling effect resulted merely from their knowledge of the surveillance activities." Olagues v. Russoniello, 797 F.2d 1511, 1518 (9th Cir.1986) (en banc). In this case, by contrast, the chilling effect upon the sanctuary workers plainly results from more than mere knowledge of the prosecutions. Rather, plaintiffs claim to be actual targets of the harboring prosecutions because they are engaging in the very conduct...

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2 practice notes
  • American Baptist Churches in the USA v. Meese, No. C-85-3255 RFP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • March 24, 1989
    ...motion with respect to the plaintiff religious organizations' first amendment claim. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. v. Meese, 666 F.Supp. 1358, 1364-66 (N.D.Cal.1987). We also found that the plaintiff religious organizations lacked standing to assert the rights of Salvadorans and G......
  • American Arab Anti-Discrimination Com. v. Meese, No. CV 87-02107-SVW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • August 31, 1989
    ...interest in engaging in the prohibited activity. See Hardwick, 760 F.2d at 1205; American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. v. Meese, 666 F.Supp. 1358, 1363 The Government in this case has demonstrated that it has an interest in excluding and deporting PFLP members generally and enforcing the ......
2 cases
  • American Baptist Churches in the USA v. Meese, No. C-85-3255 RFP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • March 24, 1989
    ...motion with respect to the plaintiff religious organizations' first amendment claim. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. v. Meese, 666 F.Supp. 1358, 1364-66 (N.D.Cal.1987). We also found that the plaintiff religious organizations lacked standing to assert the rights of Salvadorans and G......
  • American Arab Anti-Discrimination Com. v. Meese, No. CV 87-02107-SVW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • August 31, 1989
    ...interest in engaging in the prohibited activity. See Hardwick, 760 F.2d at 1205; American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. v. Meese, 666 F.Supp. 1358, 1363 The Government in this case has demonstrated that it has an interest in excluding and deporting PFLP members generally and enforcing the ......

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