Sixth Circuit Denies that Government Action Had Legal Consequences Appealable Under the APA


On December 18, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit employed recent U.S. Supreme Court Administrative Procedure Act (APA) rulings to decide whether the fans of the “Insane Clown Posse” group known as Juggalos could maintain an APA lawsuit against the federal government’s listing of the fans as “a loosely-organized hybrid gang.” The case is Parsons, et al,. v. U.S. Department of Justice, et al. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision dismissing the lawsuit.

In 2005, the Congress directed the Attorney General to establish a National Gang Intelligence Center (Center) and gang database.  In 2011, the Center designated the Juggalos as a gang. The plaintiffs allege that this listing caused their members to suffer violations of their Fifth Amendment rights and “chilled” their First Amendment rights to expression and association, and that they have been targeted for law-enforcement scrutiny.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision dismissing the lawsuit because the gang designation was not a “final agency action” that could be appealed under the APA. Citing such well-known Supreme Court rulings as Bennet v. Spear and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., the Court of Appeals held that this government action did not have legal consequences that were direct and appealable under the APA. If there were any harms, they “stem from independent actions taken by third parties.”