CLCMA began representing Mr. Haisam Elsharkawi in 2017, after he endured hours of extensive searches and detention at LAX airport for no identifiable reason while on his way to Saudi Arabia for hajj. CLCMA continues to litigate on his behalf today, and has so far obtained a judgment in his favor on his tort claims and an order from the appellate court that the government needed to provide more information than it had about the searches it ran on his phones. The detention Mr. Elsharkawi suffered included being handcuffed for hours in the basement of the airport, and demands that he provide passwords for his phones to be searched. CLCMA filed a lawsuit on his behalf in October 2018, alleging tort claims against the government as well as violations of the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. In November 2019, after the court denied portions of the government’s motion to dismiss, the government agreed to pay Mr. Elsharkawi $20,000 in damages for his tort claims of false imprisonment, battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court dismissed the claims brought under the First and Fourth Amendments for lack of due process and improper searches and seizures, and CLCMA appealed in December 2019. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit ruled in December 2020 that the government needed to provide more information than it had about the searches it ran on Mr. Elsharkawi’s electronics. The district court then dismissed the action again in September 2021, ruling that Mr. Elsharkawi had not shown a sufficient risk of future harm because, due to Covid-19 and travel restrictions, he had not identified a specific date on which he intends to travel again in the future. CLCMA plans to appeal this ruling as well, challenging both the definition of “imminent” future harm under the law and any requirement that he needs to show specific travel dates that aren’t possible as of the time of the court’s ruling.
We have been with Mr. Elsharkawi through more than four years and several rounds of litigation so far. And, we continue fighting with him and for him on all the remaining issues. We have already been able to require the government to compensate him for its actions in one way, and through our first appeal of his case forced the government to provide more information about its searches of his phones than it wanted to provide. We hope to change or at least clarify the law on what plaintiffs like Mr. Elsharkawi need to show courts to be able to demonstrate a risk of future harm, since he expects that traveling in the future will likely include the same types of searches he endured before. Like many of our cases, this one is a long-term commitment, and we are grateful for the successes we have gained so far. More remains to do, and we are eager to do it.