Federal Judge Tells U.S. Government that Shutdown Will Not Hinder ACLU Lawsuit Against NSA

The Southern District of New York has ruled that the U.S. government cannot use the government shutdown as an excuse to delay proceedings in a lawsuit filed against the National Security Agency (NSA) by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In a lawsuit filed in June of this year, the ACLU and its New York affiliate called the surveillance of (collection of phone and Internet data) Americans illegal and asked the court to force the NSA to halt its activities because they are unconstitutional.

Progress in the case came to a grinding halt as the U.S. government entered its first partial government shutdown in 17 years on Oct. 1, and the Justice Department managed to get a stay from the court. At the time, Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska with the Southern District of New York ordered a toll on all civil cases requiring counsel from the U.S. Attorney's Office. On Tuesday U.S. District Judge William Pauley III lifted that stay, noting that ongoing irreparable harm could be occurring and that the government couldn't use the shutdown as an excuse.

"The government argues a stay is appropriate because funding for the Department of Justice has expired and appropriations have lapsed," Judge Pauley wrote. "But plaintiffs allege they are suffering ongoing irreparable harm. An indefinite shutdown cannot shield the government from defending against claims of ongoing constitutional violations."

"This case presents issues of public importance to the nation and deserves resolution in a timely and efficient manner. As plaintiffs note, other district courts faced with pressing issues have required the Department of Justice to continue to litigate, despite the shutdown."

Reply briefs to pending motions are due on Oct. 25, and oral arguments are set to being on Nov. 22, according to the order.

You can read the order here (PDF).

Source: Courthouse News

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