(Politico) – The conservative legal activist who won the first court ruling questioning the legality of the National Security Agency’s massive phone-call tracking database is asking the Supreme Court to short circuit the normal appeals process and take up the case directly.
Attorney Larry Klayman said he sent the unusual petition to the high court on Monday.
“We went to the Supreme Court because, unlike the government, we’re not dragging our feet. We want a quick decision here,” Klayman said in a brief phone interview Monday afternoon.
A Justice Department spokesman had no immediate comment on the submission
The filing, known as a petition for writ of certiorari before judgment, is granted exceesingly rarely by the court. Usually, the justices prefer for cases to have full appellate review and in many cases review by appeals courts from more than one circuit.
“This case is of such imperative public importance that it justifies deviation from normal appellate practice and requires immediate consideration and determination in the Supreme Court,” Klayman argues in his petition. “This amounts to perhaps the most egregious widespread violation of constitutional rights of the American people in U.S. history. Respectfully, this Court must address and resolve these constitutional issues at the earliest practicable date before further harm is done to the hundreds of millions of Americans who have no connection to terrorists or terrorism, and who now, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, have been made to fear their Government.”
Last year, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a similar petition, asking the high court to directly review a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order requiring the production to the government of phone company metadata detailing the time and duration of calls and numbers called. The government opposed the petition. The justices turned it down in November.
In December, Klayman won a preliminary injunction against the government from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, who concluded the NSA’s telephone metadata gathering was likely unconstitutional. He ordered the agency to stop collecting such information on Klayman and two of his clients. The judge stayed his order pending appeal.
Leon’s decision, while preliminary in nature, had a dramatic impact on the surveillance debate. It undercut arguments from prominent officials like President Barack Obama, who maintained that the program was clearly legal because more than a dozen other judges had authorized it.
Leon held a hearing on Klayman’s cases Monday, considering a Justice Department motion to halt the proceedings while appeals go forward. There was no immediate ruling by the judge on that question. If Leon grants such a stay, Klayman will have to wait to obtain records and testimony about the metadata program until the appeals are resolved.
“I’m confident that this case will move along quickly. One minute that one American’s constitutional rights are violated is one minute too much,” said Klayman, founder of Freedom Watch.