Constitutional Law

US Lawyer Wrongly Accused in Madrid Bomb Case Loses Patriot Act Challenge

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Because he earlier accepted $2 million from the government for being mistakenly arrested in an international terrorism case and is barred by the terms of the settlement from seeking new injunctive relief, an Oregon lawyer lacks standing to pursue his challenge to the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act, a federal appeals court panel in San Francisco ruled today.

Attorney Brandon Mayfield was imprisoned for two weeks in 2004 and had his home and law office searched after he was incorrectly identified, based on a faulty fingerprint match, as a suspect in a train bombing in Madrid that killed 191 people. He successfully argued in federal court in Oregon that portions of the Patriot Act are unconstitutional because the statute permits surveillance and searches without probable cause.

But without reaching the merits of his Fourth Amendment challenge to the statute, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today directed the trial judge to dismiss the case because of the prior settlement, reports Bloomberg.

Mayfield argued that the government’s retention of materials from his home and the law office in which he conducted his civil and immigration practice constitute an ongoing invasion of his privacy, and the three-judge appellate panel agreed.

But even if Mayfield prevails on appeal, he won’t have a legal basis to require the government to destroy these materials, the court explains in a written opinion (PDF) today. Hence, the panel directed the trial judge to dismiss Mayfield’s Patriot Act challenge for lack of standing.

The FBI in 2004 offered a rare public apology for Mayfield’s mistaken identification and arrest as a suspect in the case, as the Associated Press reported at the time.

Earlier coverage: (2007): “Patriot Act Surveillance Provisions Struck”

Champion (2004): “A Multitude of Errors: The Brandon Mayfield Case”

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