For more than 40 years, McManis Faulkner has fought to protect the rights of citizens to be free from arbitrary actions of the government. As recognition, at the Asian Law Alliance’s (ALA) 38th anniversary dinner, the firm was recognized as the Community Impact Honoree. In addition, during the dinner, Congressmen Michael M. Hondo and Anna G. Eshoo each presented the firm with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition. McManis Faulkner also received an Assembly Certificate of Recognition from Evan Low Assistant Majority Whip, Assembly Member, 28th District – San Jose/Silicon Valley.
Nowhere was this commitment more apparent than in the firm’s work leading to the historic ruling in Ibrahim v. Department of Homeland Security, where the McManis Faulkner team represented Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian scholar, in the first case to successfully challenge the placement of an individual on a post-9/11 watchlist. In a case that received international media attention, the four-person trial team took on more than a dozen U.S. government lawyers over the course of nearly nine years of procedural wrangling, including two dismissals of Dr. Ibrahim’s case by the District Court, both reversed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The trial team ultimately forced the government to admit—after it fought to keep the facts hidden from the public—that Dr. Ibrahim posed no threat to national security and was mistakenly placed on the No-Fly list because an FBI agent checked the wrong box on a Government form. As a result, the same judge who had twice dismissed the case ruled in Dr. Ibrahim’s favor, ordering that her name be cleared.
The full, unredacted decision, released after a three-month hold, revealed for the first time that the government employs a secret standard to watch-list individuals who pose no threat to national security. According to the unsealed decision, the government invoked a classified exception to the “reasonable suspicion” standard to place Ibrahim and her eldest daughter, an American citizen, in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). The government previously assured the public that it would not place individuals in the TSDB unless it had “reasonable suspicion”—i.e., “articulable facts” that reasonably warrant a determination that an individual is engaged in terrorist activities.
The trial team’s historic victory in Ibrahim, which involved thousands of pro bono hours, laid the foundation for erroneously watch-listed individuals to clear their names by revealing that the Executive Branch created at least one secret exception to the “reasonable suspicion” standard, that the government asserts absolute and unreviewable discretion in its watch list decisions, and that the government’s watchlisting system deprives individuals of due process of law.
In addition to Ibrahim, the firm represented a Chinese-American scientist accused of being a security risk by the U.S. government. At trial, a U.S. District Judge found his privacy rights had been violated and ordered the government to pay damages. In another case now before the California Supreme Court, McManis Faulkner recently filed an opening brief on the merits, arguing that a local government agency cannot shield public records from disclosure under the California Public Records Act simply by storing them in private accounts or on private devices.
Through McManis Faulkner’s work on these matters, the firm demonstrates its long-standing commitment to improving access to justice by taking on novel cases that other lawyers might refuse based on the level of difficulty and uncertainty involved and the high cost of litigating all the way to a final judgment.