Parsons v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. 14–1848.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSARGUS, District Judge.
Citation801 F.3d 701
PartiesMark PARSONS; Brandon Bradley; Scott Gandy; Robert Hellin ; Joseph F. Bruce; Joseph W. Utsler, Plaintiffs–Appellants, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE; Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defendants–Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 14–1848.
Decision Date17 September 2015

801 F.3d 701

Mark PARSONS; Brandon Bradley; Scott Gandy; Robert Hellin ; Joseph F. Bruce; Joseph W. Utsler, Plaintiffs–Appellants
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE; Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defendants–Appellees.

No. 14–1848.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

Argued: June 18, 2015.
Decided and Filed: Sept. 17, 2015.

801 F.3d 705

ARGUED:Saura J. Sahu, Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, PLC, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants. Lindsey Powell, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Appellees. ON BRIEF:Saura J. Sahu, Emily C. Palacios, Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, PLC, Detroit, Michigan, Michael J. Steinberg, Daniel S. Korobkin, ACLU Fund of Michigan, Detroit, Michigan, Howard Hertz, Hertz Schram PC, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Appellants. Lindsey Powell, Michael S. Raab, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Appellees.

Before: ROGERS and McKEAGUE, Circuit Judges; SARGUS, District Judge.*


SARGUS, District Judge.

Plaintiffs appeal the district court's dismissal of this action for lack of standing. We REVERSE and REMAND.


This is a case about fans of the Insane Clown Posse, who call themselves “Juggalos,” and their ability to bring a lawsuit against government law enforcement agencies for alleged violations of their constitutional rights. The Insane Clown Posse is a commercially successful musical art group whose fans self-identify as “Juggalos.” Juggalos are easily spotted because they frequently display, on person or property, insignia representative of the band. In 2011, the National Gang Intelligence Center—an informational center operating under the Federal Bureau of Investigation—released a congressionally-mandated report on gang activity that included a section on Juggalos. The report identified Juggalos as a “hybrid gang” and relayed information about criminal activity committed by Juggalo subsets. Plaintiff–Juggalos allege that they subsequently suffered

801 F.3d 706

violations of their First and Fifth Amendment constitutional rights at the hands of state and local law enforcement officers who were motivated to commit the injuries in question due to the identification of Juggalos as a criminal gang. Plaintiffs filed suit against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The district court dismissed for lack of standing. For the reasons that follow we REVERSE the dismissal and REMAND the case for consideration of Defendants' Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) arguments.


A. Factual Background

Because this case is before us on a motion to dismiss, we “must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and must construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party.” Kardules v. City of Columbus, 95 F.3d 1335, 1346 (6th Cir.1996) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975) ). When considering whether pleadings make out a justiciable case for want of standing, our analysis must be confined to the four corners of the complaint. Id. at 1347 n. 4.

1. Musical Group ICP and Juggalos

The Insane Clown Posse (“ICP”) is a musical group formed in 1991 and based in Farmingham Hills, Michigan. The group is well known for elaborate live performances and has enjoyed substantial commercial success. ICP's songs “often use harsh language and themes” that deal with social, political, religious or counter-cultural issues. (R. 1 ¶ 22). Specifically, ICP's music ranges from songs with “hopeful, life-affirming themes about the wonders of life and the support that Juggalos give to one another,” to “horrorcore hip hop”—music that “uses very harsh language to tell nightmare-like stories with an underlying message that horrible things happen to people who choose evil over good.” (Id. ¶ 3).

Members of ICP's dedicated musical fan base—fans of ICP and other bands on ICP's independent record label, Psychopathic Records—are widely known as “Juggalos.” “As an expression of their identity, Juggalos often obtain and display distinctive tattoos of ICP and Psychopathic Record art and icons. They also wear and otherwise display ICP art, symbols and insignia on their clothing and other personal belongings.” (Id. ¶ 24). These displays of identity include the practice of painting their faces to look like clowns and often incorporate the “hatchetman” logo—a distinctive Juggalo symbol.

Plaintiffs self-identify as Juggalos. “Juggalos gather and associate with each other to listen to ICP's music, to share ideas surrounding the music, to express their support of or interest in the ideas that ICP expresses through its music, to express their affiliation with ICP and the artists on its record label, and to express their affiliation with one another.” (Id. ¶ 25).

2. Defendants and the National Gang Intelligence Center

Defendant Department of Justice (“DOJ”) is a department of the United States government. Defendant Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) is an agency housed within the DOJ. In 2005, Congress directed the U.S. Attorney General, through Public Law 109–162, 119 Stat. 2960, to “establish a National Gang Intelligence Center (‘NGIC’) and gang information database to be housed at and administered by the [FBI] to collect, analyze, and disseminate gang activity information from the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, the Drug Enforcement Administration,

801 F.3d 707

other federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement, prosecutors, and correctional officers.” (Id. ¶ 100). In the same federal statute, Congress directed the NGIC to make the information available to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, among others. The statute also directed the NGIC to annually submit a report to Congress on gang activity. “The DOJ promptly established the Center in response to Congress's direction and ... the FBI has administered the Center since its inception.” (Id. ¶ 101).

In 2011, the NGIC published its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment (the “2011 NGIC Report,” or “Report”), in which the NGIC summarized and reported information it had collected and analyzed in relation to gangs. “According to the [NGIC], the [2011 NGIC Report] ‘supports [DOJ] strategic objectives 2.2 (to reduce the threat, incidence, and prevalence of violent crime) and 2.4 (to reduce the threat, trafficking, use and related violence of illegal drugs).’ ” (Id. ¶ 121). The 2011 NGIC Report “is based on federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and corrections agency intelligence....” (Id. at ¶ 122). From its publication through at least the time of the filing of the Complaint in this case, the 2011 NGIC Report has been available to the general public on the NGIC website. See–national–gang–threat–assessment.

In the 2011 NGIC Report, Juggalos are classified as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang.” (Id. ¶ 132). The Report defines hybrid-gangs as “non-traditional gangs with multiple affiliations” that “are adopting national symbols and gang members often crossover from gang to gang.” (Id. ¶ 131). The Report further states the following:

• “Many Juggalo subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence.”
• “Most crimes committed by Juggalos are sporadic, disorganized, individualistic, and often involve simple assault, personal drug use and possession, petty theft and vandalism.”
• “A small number of Juggalos are forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity, such as felony assaults, thefts, robberies, and drug sales.”
• “Juggalos' disorganization and lack of structure within their groups, coupled with their transient nature, makes it difficult to classify them and identify their members and migration patterns.”

(Id. ¶ 140). The Report also notes that Arizona, California, Pennsylvania and Utah are the only states officially recognizing Juggalos as a gang, but that Juggalo gang-related criminal activity is reported in other states.

3. Plaintiffs' Alleged Injuries

a. Plaintiff Mark Parsons (“Parsons”)

On July 9, 2013, Parsons was riding with a driver-trainee in a semi-truck on an interstate freeway outside Knoxville, Tennessee for his small trucking business, entitled “Juggalo Express LLC.” The side of Parsons' truck was decorated with a large, visible ICP “hatchetman” logo. (Id. ¶¶ 31–34). Parsons and the trainee pulled into the bypass lane of a weigh station, where a Tennessee State Trooper ordered them to stop and park for a safety inspection. Once they parked, the State Trooper approached Parsons and asked if he was a Juggalo. (Id. ¶¶ 34–37). The State Trooper indicated that he detained Parsons for an inspection due to the hatchetman logo on the truck. He then indicated that he considered Juggalos to be a criminal


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