CLCMA Files Appeal Brief Challenging Airport Detention and Electronics Search

Today, CLCMA attorneys filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of our client Haisam Elsharkawi, challenging the dismissal of his constitutional and statutory claims against DHS, CBP and individual officers. CLCMA first filed suit on behalf of Mr. Elsharkawi in 2018, alleging violations of his rights when he was detained, handcuffed and searched for several hours at LAX airport, on his way out of the country for religious pilgrimage. CLCMA won a monetary judgment for Mr. Elsharkawi on his tort claims of false imprisonment, battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress ( when the government made an offer of judgment for the full amount he sought on his tort claims, after the court had denied the government’s motion to dismiss those claims ( In denying the government’s motion, the court observed that “the Complaint provides a detailed account of the underlying factual events and alleged conduct by the government’s employees. It also provides clear statements of the legal theories under which Plaintiff asserts the government might be liable for such conduct. This is textbook pleading under Rule 8 and the Court does not grasp the government’s apparent confusion.”

In today’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit, CLCMA attorneys point out that the issues in this case “center on the privacies of life” and the rights of each citizen to protections from unlawful detention, searches and seizures, including protections from searches of electronics and cell phones without reasonable suspicion. As described in the Summary of the Argument, what happened to Mr. Elsharkawi could happen to any U.S. citizen:

A United States citizen packed and went to LAX airport for a flight he had planned, in accordance with his sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, to another country. But it was while still in the boundaries of the United States that his civil rights were violated, and he found himself searched, detained, and handcuffed, and his electronics seized and searched. He had no “contraband” on him and no history of any behavior related to contraband – no illegal drugs, no child pornography, and no history of suspicious behavior. He had no criminal record at all. He was simply a traveler, wearing the traditional religious garb of his Islamic faith, headed out of the country on a religious pilgrimage. He was brought in handcuffs to a detention room in the basement of LAX, and detained for several hours until he agreed to surrender the passwords to his electronics ( one of which was never locked). He missed his flight, not making it out of the country at all that day. And, ever since, he fears the same violations may happen any time he travels again.

“Mr. Elsharkawi did nothing to justify the treatment he endured, from being handcuffed to having his electronics searched, all because he simply attempted to board a flight to an international destination to observe his religious beliefs,” said Christina A. Jump, one of the CLCMA attorneys representing Mr. Elsharkawi. “He is a law-abiding United States citizen, and the government agents he encountered at LAX violated the law with how they treated him. We fully support the government’s efforts to protect legitimate security interests, but handcuffing and detaining a U.S. citizen for hours, particularly when he was simply trying to board a flight exiting the country, is not within the rights of the agents our client encountered. Mr. Elsharkawi expects to be treated with the same courtesy, respect and dignity as any other citizen; the government fell far short of its duties to do that.”

CLCMA attorneys continue to protect the rights of each client they represent, seeking equal treatment under the law for all, and in all aspects of life.