Askins v. USDHS, No. 16-55719 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed suit for violation of their First Amendment rights, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, after they took photographs of activities at U.S. ports of entry on the United States–Mexico border, they were both stopped and searched by officers of the CBP, and their photos were destroyed. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims.
The Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred by applying the law of the case doctrine on a motion to dismiss an amended complaint. On the merits, the panel held that the First Amendment protected the right to photograph and record matters of public interest, and whether a place was "public" depended on the nature of the location; the district court's holding that the CBP policies were the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest were conclusory and insufficient; and it was the government's burden to prove that the specific restrictions were the least restrictive means available. The panel held that plaintiffs have adequately pleaded their claims and that further factual development was required before the district court could determine what restrictions, if any, the government may impose in these public, outdoors areas where the photos were taken.