Reverse and Remand


  • Court Hearing: June 18, 2015
  • Written ruling: September 17, 2015

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit released a published opinion holding that the plaintiffs, four self-described "Juggalos" and two members of the band Insane Clown Posse, had standing for their claims against the US Department of Justice and the FBI that they suffered violations of their First and Fifth Amendment rights. Parsons v US Dep't of Justice, Docket No. 14-1848 (September 17, 2015). The Sixth Circuit reversed the District Court's dismissal for lack of standing and remanded for consideration of the defendants' FRCP 12(b)(6) (failure to state a claim) arguments.

The Sixth Circuit determined that the plaintiffs had met their burden of proving cause in fact for the purposes of standing for all of their claims. For the plaintiffs' First Amendment and Due Process claims, the Sixth Circuit held that the alleged chilling effect was insufficient alone as an injury because "the 2011 NGTA Report does not regulate, constrain, or compel any action on the part of the plaintiffs." The alleged reputational injury, however, was enough to establish injury in fact, especially because the claims of chilling effect were combined with the "concrete allegations of reputational harm." The Sixth Circuit also held that stigmatization was injury in fact for the standing analysis. For the plaintiffs' procedural APA and Declaratory Judgment Act claims, the Sixth Circuit indicated that "procedural rights are treated uniquely under the standing inquiry" and that a "person who has been accorded a procedural right to protect his concrete interests can assert that right without meeting all the normal standards for redressability and immediacy." The Sixth Circuit held that similar to Wright v. O’Day, 706 F.3d 769, 771-72 (6th Cir. 2013) where the Sixth Circuit found freedom from placement on a child-abuse registry was an injury in fact for a procedural due process claim, the Juggalos "freedom from placement in the 2011 NGIC Report" was a sufficient basis to establish standing requirement of injury in fact for a procedural due process claim.

The Sixth Circuit also held that the Juggalos and ICP members had proven causation for standing, indicating that the alleged injury must only be "fairly traceable" to the challenged action and need not be proximate or but-for. Further, that third parties had to exercise independent judgment did not obviate the causation for the purpose of standing. The Sixth Circuit noted, "The Juggalos' allegations link the 2011 NGTA Report to their injuries by stating that the law enforcement officials themselves acknowledged that the DOJ gang designation had caused them to take the actions in question." The Sixth Circuit said that "it is still possible to motivate harmful conduct without giving a direct order to engage in said conduct."

The Sixth Circuit held that Juggalos requests for relief met the standing requirement of redressability because an order setting aside the 2011 NGIC Report would "abate the reflection of Juggalo criminal activity as gang or gang-like by the Agencies." The Sixth Circuit further stated the plaintiffs sufficiently argued that the reputational harm and chill would be alleviated.

The Sixth Circuit therefore reversed and remanded for consideration of the defendants' FRCP 12(b)(6) (failure to state a claim) motion to dismiss. 


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