U.S. Supreme Court Unanimously Rules in Favor of Government Transparency and Accountability

March 20, 2024

Court Rejects Government's Attempt to Moot a Lawsuit by Oregon Man Placed on the "No Fly List" Without Explanation

The United States Supreme Court has issued a unanimous decision in favor of government transparency and accountability, ruling that the government cannot use legal gamesmanship to dodge citizens’ attempts to assert their constitutional rights.

On March 19, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s attempt to moot a lawsuit by Yonas Fikre, a Muslim-American man from Portland, Oregon, who is suing the FBI for violating his Fifth Amendment Right to due process.

In 2010, Fikre was placed on the No Fly List without warning or explanation while on a business trip in Sudan. FBI agents told him they would remove him from the list and allow him to return home—if he agreed to become an informant about a mosque he had attended in Portland. Fikre declined and was stranded abroad for years, eventually suing the FBI for violating his constitutional rights as an American citizen.

In 2016, the FBI removed Fikre’s name from the No Fly List and asked a federal court to dismiss his lawsuit, arguing that the case was moot because the government had removed him from the list and said it did not plan to put him back on it. The FBI never explained why it put him on the list—or why it finally took him off.

In its decision, the Supreme Court determined that the government had not met its “formidable burden” of proof to show that it would not later add Fikre back to the list.

The Liberty Justice Center filed an amicus brief in the case on December 19, arguing that the government cannot prevent citizens from asserting their constitutional rights by playing a game of “legal Whac-A-Mole,” taking those who challenge the No Fly List off the list to dodge judicial scrutiny.

“In yesterday’s decision in FBI v. Fikre, the Court correctly upheld a well-settled rule—the government cannot avoid constitutional review by simply stopping illegal behavior when sued by those whose rights it is violating,” said Reilly Stephens, Counsel at the Liberty Justice Center.

The Liberty Justice Center’s amicus brief in FBI v. Fikre is available here.


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