Judge William Alsup convened day five of the trial in Ibrahim v. DHS — the first lawsuit challenging a U.S. government “no-fly” order to make it to trial — on Friday morning with the announcement that, “I received this additional material about the [plaintiff's] daughter and her attempts to come here.”
But as he said this, Judge Alsup noticed that lead counsel for both parties were still conferring in the corridor outside the courtroom. When they were brought in a moment later, Dr. Ibrahim’s lead attorney Elizabeth Pipkin came forward with an even more unexpected announcement: “We have told opposing counsel that we are considering the possibility of bar complaints against some of the attorneys on their team for their conduct during this trial.”
“There is some concern that on our team there have been some blatant misrepresentations made to the court,” one of the supervising attorneys for the Department of Justice team representing the government explained.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Judge Alsup said. What exactly was he supposed to do?
Ms. Pipkin said she wasn’t asking Judge Alsup to do anything, and further volunteered that she had assured the government’s legal team that no such complaints would be made until after the conclusion of the trial.
But one of the government’s supervising attorneys told Judge Alsup she was concerned about compliance with internal rules of her agency that require that in cases where a supervising attorney is aware of the potential for bar complaints against a government lawyer, the supervisor is required to reassign that lawyer from the case while the possible complaint is pending.
That appeared to be an internal matter within the government’s legal team, and there didn’t seem to be anything for Judge Alsup to do. No announcement was made as to the departure of any of the government’s lawyers, but with a team one observer counted as ten lawyers and three paralegals before the bar on the defendants’ side, it was hard to keep track of whether one of them might have gone missing for the rest of the day.
Ms. Pipkin told the judge that, “We would prefer to take up the issue of the daughter first,” before closing arguments. “It’s integral to the case, and shows exactly what the issues are.” But Judge Alsup decided he wanted to get the closing arguments over with first, and scheduled a separate hearing regarding Dr. Ibrahim’s daughter after lunch. (See our separate report on that later hearing, which produced even more shocking revelations: “No-fly” trial, day 5, part 2: What happened to the plaintiff’s daughter? )
Each side to was allowed to make a 30-minute closing statement in open court, after which the courtroom was cleared and each side was allowed an additional 15 minutes to make arguments behind closed doors based on, or referring to, evidence that the government contends cannot be disclosed to the public.
“This case is about the right to travel freely, without government interference,” Ms. Pipkin began the public portion of her closing.
“Dr. Ibrahim is not able to be here because the government has not issued a visa for her to do so. She wants to maintain and enrich her ties to colleagues and institutions in the U.S. She has substantial ties to the U.S. But she has been unable to travel to the U.S. since 2005.”
Ms. Pipkin predicted — correctly – that, “The government will say that there’s been no real harm” to Dr. Ibrahim from the defendants’ actions because she’s been incredibly successful in her career and has been able to travel to other places. “But she has been denied access to the most important country in the world for research and scholarship. She wants to commercialize the patented inventions that she had made in her research, but she has been denied access to the most important center of entrepreneurship and investment in the world. She has been denied permission to travel to the U.S. to petition for redress of her grievances.”