NYC
03/21/2014 09:44 am ET Updated Mar 21, 2014

New Jersey Muslims Appeal Ruling Dismissing NYPD Surveillance Lawsuit

NEW YORK -- A group of Muslims in New Jersey filed an appeal on Friday to challenge a federal judge's ruling that tossed out their lawsuit against the New York City Police Department's surveillance program.

"We think the judge was totally wrong," said Glenn Katon, legal director for the group Muslim Advocates, which is representing the New Jersey religious leaders and students who were targets of NYPD spying. "If we prevail in this, then the chances are very good we'll make it to trial and we'll have a chance to really, fully expose just how misguided the spying program is."

In a 10-page ruling last month, U.S. District Judge William Martini tossed out the lawsuit against New York City. Martini found that any harm to the New Jersey Muslims was actually caused by the Associated Press when it printed information about the NYPD's program.

Katon dismissed that suggestion as "really nonsense."

"Even apart from what the AP reported, the city -- [former Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and [former NYPD Commissioner] Ray Kelly -- very publicly acknowledged and defended the program," he said.

Muslim Advocates, along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, is appealing the ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes New Jersey. The New York City Law Department declined to comment on the appeal, citing pending litigation.

A separate, ongoing lawsuit in Brooklyn is targeting surveillance within New York City itself, and civil liberties advocates have also revived a separate, decades-old court case in an attempt to constrain the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims.

In two and a half months in office, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and new Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have given few hints about what changes they will make to the NYPD's intelligence-gathering efforts.

Katon said he hoped that behind closed doors, de Blasio and Bratton are formulating a new, more conciliatory policy.

"Hopefully they really are digging into and questioning whether the policy makes sense from a law enforcement perspective." Until they do, he added, advocates have to assume "that it's business as usual and they're continuing with the program."

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