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MCCOLLUM v. SMITH

September 28, 1984

JOHN McCOLLUM, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WILLIAM FRENCH SMITH, Attorney General of the United States, and BRADFORD REYNOLDS, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, United States Department of Justice, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOGAN

 In this suit, the eight individual plaintiffs and the National Anti-Klan Network seek a declaratory judgment that the Department of Justice for many years under the past as well as the present administration has improperly interpreted its jurisdiction to prosecute violations of certain criminal statutes. The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that plaintiffs lack standing. Upon consideration of defendants' motion, plaintiffs' opposition and defendants' reply memorandum, the supporting memoranda of points and authorities and the arguments presented at a hearing on this motion, it is hereby this 28th day of September, 1984

 ORDERED that defendants' motion is GRANTED and the case dismissed.

 The individual plaintiffs are residents of several Southern states; each alleges that he or she has been a victim of racially motivated violence by groups of Klansmen over the past several years. Each plaintiff alleges that FBI and Justice Department officials were informed of these incidents but that "on information and belief, the reason for the failure of the Department of Justice to act was the Department's legal position, taken under the direction of defendant Smith as Attorney General and defendant Reynolds as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division, that it does not have jurisdiction to prosecute those who commit violent acts even though motivated solely by race." Amended Complaint paras. 10, 11. It is alleged in the complaint that this position was announced in 1980 in the testimony of Drew S. Days, the chief of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division under President Carter. *fn1"

 The National Anti-Klan Network is a non-profit corporation based in Atlanta, Georgia. It was established in 1979 in response to the rise in Klan activity throughout the United States. The Network consists of a number of religious, labor, educational, political and legal organizations and individuals, and works to counter Klan activity through educational forums, political organizing, and other legal means. Each of the individual plaintiffs belongs to the Network. The Network alleges that it has been at the forefront of the struggle to alert the defendants to the erroneous construction of certain statutory provisions, and to the fact that racially motivated violence has increased because of the defendants' unwillingness to prosecute these types of violent acts.

 The statutes at issue are 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 241, 242 and 245. Section 245 enumerates certain federally protected activities, the interference with which may be punished pursuant to Sections 241 and 242. Section 241 authorizes the imposition of fines and a term of imprisonment where,

 
(where) two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured . . .

 Section 242 provides,

 
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any inhabitant of any State, Territory, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such inhabitant being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if death results shall be subject to imprisonment for any term of years or for life.

 Plaintiffs further allege that defendants' erroneous construction of these statutes has resulted in a deprivation of plaintiffs' rights to be free from race discrimination and from the badges and incidents of slavery under the thirteenth amendment, and to be afforded equal protection of the laws under the fourteenth amendment. They also allege that the defendants' failure to enforce these statutes has deprived them of their rights to be protected from racial discrimination and racially motivated violence. Plaintiffs have asked the Court to declare that there is no jurisdictional obstacle preventing federal prosecutions, based on the statutes at issue, against the perpetrators of the racially motivated violent incidents alleged by the plaintiffs.

 In ruling on the standing issue presented, the Court has accepted as true all material allegations in the complaint and has construed that complaint in favor of the plaintiffs. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343, 95 S. Ct. 2197 (1975). The relevant inquiry when the issue of a plaintiff's standing is raised is "whether, assuming justiciability of the claim, the plaintiff has shown an injury to himself that is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision." Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 41, 48 L. Ed. 2d 450, 96 S. Ct. 1917 (1976). Further, in order to demonstrate injury in fact, a plaintiff must show that he has suffered a "distinct and palpable injury that is fairly traceable to defendant's challenged action." Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United For Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 487, 70 L. Ed. 2d 700, 102 S. Ct. 752 (1982). In analyzing the elements of injury in fact and redressability, this Circuit has explained,

 
the fairly traceable causation inquiry is directed toward the connection between the injury and the defendant's actions. The redressability inquiry, on the other hand, focuses on the connection between the injury and the action requested of the court. The fairly traceable causation requirement is therefore generally based on past or present occurrences (the effect of the defendant's actions), while the redressability requirement is based on future probabilities (the effect of the court's decision). Of course, there is a correlation between the two elements. As the connection between the alleged ...

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