Askins and Ramirez v. Department of Homeland Security et al., Nos. 12-CV-2600 W BLM (S.D. Cal., filed Oct. 24, 2012) and 16-55719 (9th Cir., filed May 17, 2016)
This case is about preserving the fundamental First Amendment right to photograph and monitor publicly visible law enforcement activity and challenging CBP’s abusive behavior towards those who seek to exercise this right at or near ports of entry.
Ray Askins is a U.S. citizen and environmental activist. While standing on a public street in Calexico (inside the United States), he took photographs of the exterior of the Calexico Port of Entry building to illustrate a presentation he planned to give on vehicle emissions at ports of entry. Christian Ramirez is a U.S. citizen and human rights activist who, while standing on the U.S. side of the border, photographed male CBP officers improperly frisking female travelers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
When they took their photographs, both Mr. Askins and Mr. Ramirez were on the United States side of the border, in areas open to the public. The matters they photographed were publicly visible. In both cases, CBP officers detained, harassed, and threatened them, temporarily confiscated their cameras, and deleted their photographs. CBP officers also physically abused Mr. Askins.
This case seeks to prevent CBP from interfering with or otherwise suppressing the public’s lawful recording of federal public activities.
In September 2013, the district court denied in part and granted in part the government’s motion to dismiss. The government then filed a motion for clarification of the court’s order on the motion to dismiss. In April 2014, the district court granted in part and denied in part the government’s motion. In this order, the district court reaffirmed its First Amendment analysis in its September 2013 order on the government’s motion to dismiss. The court, however, ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs relating to Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claims. The parties filed supplemental briefs in late spring 2014.
In January 2015, the district court issued another order granting the government’s motion in part. This order addressed Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claims, and invited Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint.
Plaintiffs did so; once more, the government moved to dismiss, and Plaintiffs opposed.
In March 2016, the district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ first amended complaint. Plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit; they filed their opening brief on September 26, 2016. The CATO Institute and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed amicus briefs in support of Plaintiffs-Appellants. Appellate briefing was completed in February 2017. In February 2018, the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument on Plaintiff’s appeal to S.D. Cal’s dismissal of the first amended complaint.
On August 14, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion and reversed the district court’s ruling, ordering the case to be remanded for discovery. The government filed an answer on March 8, 2019, and the parties spent several months in active discovery. In September 2020, a final settlement was entered and the case was dismissed.
If you would like to understand your rights under the settlement, please visit: https://www.aclu.org/news/free-speech/you-have-the-right-to-record-law-enforcement-officers-including-at-the-border.
If you believe your First Amendment rights have been violated while photographing or recording at a land Port of Entry in the United States, please submit an intake with the ACLU using this online form: https://action.aclu.org/webform/help-us-hold-cbp-officials-accountable.
- Amended complaint
- Exhibits to amended complaint
- District court order granting in part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss
- District court order granting in part Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration
- Appellants’ (plaintiffs’) Opening Brief to the Ninth Circuit
- Amicus brief in support of Appellants from CATO Institute
- Amicus brief in support of Appellants from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 7 media organizations
- Appellees’ Answering Brief
- Appellants’ Reply Brief to the Ninth Circuit
- Ninth Circuit oral argument video
- Ninth Circuit oral argument audio
- Ninth Circuit opinion
- Defendants’ Answer to Plaintiffs’ first amended complaint
- Second Amended Complaint
- Plaintiffs’ Memorandum in Support of Motion to Compel
- Order Granting in Part and Denying In Part Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel
- Final Stipulated Settlement Agreement
- Order Approving Final Settlement Agreement
Counsel: ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties; Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP; First Amendment Coalition
Contact: David Loy | First Amendment Coalition | email@example.com