Historic Ninth Circuit Ruling in No-Fly Case

Litigation, Plaintiff, Appellate, Investigations

McManis Faulkner successfully represented Rahinah Ibrahim, a Stanford graduate student, who found herself inexplicably on the No-Fly List. Ibrahim was arrested at San Francisco International Airport in 2005 before being allowed to fly to her native Malaysia for an academic conference. She was not allowed to return to the U.S. due to her ‘No-Fly’ List status.

Filing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, government lawyers argued that with the passage of 49 USC Section 46110 by Congress, federal judges had no jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA). As such, only appellate courts have jurisdiction over such cases, making them impossible to litigate because appellate courts cannot take evidence and had no lower court decision – complete with evidence – to review and reconsider.

In a decided victory, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to allow federal trial judges to investigate the make-up of the ‘No-Fly’ List. The court held that the Terrorist Screening Center, the agency that compiles the list, is part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is not listed in 49 USC Section 46110.

McManis Faulkner then filed a suit in U.S. District Court to have Ibrahim's name removed; however, Judge William Alsup dismissed the suit. He ruled that Ibrahim had no constitutional rights at stake because she was a foreigner who had left the U.S. voluntarily.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the District Court decision, ruling that Ibrahim had significant U.S. connections - she had spent four years as a graduate student at Stanford, traveled abroad only to present her research at a Stanford-sponsored conference, and would have returned for academic and personal visits if the government hadn't barred her.