- to mount a huge class-action suit.
Ever since 1789, the Federal Government has been flagrantly violating the Supreme Law, in a way that brings serious inconvenience ten million times a year to US citizens. Under the management of a competent attorney, they could unite in a class action to claim thousands of dollars each in compensation, so causing acute embarrassment to the violators. This invites a qualified attorney to come forward.
The law in question is Amendment 4. It clearly promises that the FedGov (at least) shall not impose a search upon a person unless there is both:
(1) a reason (ie, a dragnet search or fishing expedition is not allowed)
(2) a warrant that is supported by a "probable cause" (ie, some apparent breach of the law) supported by an "oath or affirmation" (by a witness to that apparent crime) which "particularly describes" the place and/or persons to be searched and/or seized. And signed, of course, by a magistrate.
Yet when a US citizen returns to his or her country after a journey abroad, he and his baggage are subjected to a FedGov search without any such "particular description", with no "oath" whatever, regarding the existence of any such "probable cause", and with no signature by any magistrate nor any "warrant" or other bit of paper one might sign. That's the gross violation.
The process can commonly take an hour, and occurs frequently when the citizen is weary after a long day's traveling. Usually young children are present and do not hesitate to cry pitifully, adding to the stress. No seating is provided. Friends or family waiting to greet the returning party are kept waiting on the other side of a barrier, without any compensation for the loss of their time, and car parking is charged by the minute. That's the basis of the proposed damage claim, which will be magnified by the fact that an egregious violation of Constitutional rights is being committed.
The agency committing this outrage is the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its web site notes the problem and claims that the Supreme Court has granted a waiver to Amendment 4 in the case of border searches, called a "border exception." I was unable to trace any such decision, but perhaps it has; in any case that would be irrelevant because the Supreme Court has no authority to grant any such exception. By Article 5 the Constitution can be amended only by three fourths of the States; and even though that might not have been at all difficult, such is the arrogance of government that in two and a quarter centuries it has never been done.
A further CBP claim is that there do exist "presumptive warrants" for each border search. No sample of these alleged warrants is displayed, and the term is in any case a contradiction. A warrant is required, and specific actions are required to prepare one, and those specific actions can not be presumed to have taken place when it is manifest that they have not. Imagine: you suffer a traffic stop. The cop comes to your window and asks to see your "license and registration." You respond with "Good morning, officer, certainly. I have here a presumptive license, and a presumptive registration. You'll see they are in good order, for I printed them up last month on my computer." "Oh," replies the cop, "that's fine, then. Be sure to fix that rear brake light, and have a nice day." In your dreams.
The annual 10 million FedGov violations is a count of incidents, not people; for some make more than one foreign trip per year. For example there might be only 5 million persons a year able to join the lawsuit, with two claims each on average. However most of them will have passport stamps to prove that they made overseas journeys in earlier years; the volume is increasing at 2% a year but if on average those records go back 5 years, there would be around 40- to 50 million rights-violations qualifying for the class-action suit, each involving a claim of, say, $10,000. If everyone joined it and won, a fresh round of Quantitative Easing would be required.
In real life not everyone will join, but suppose even 5% do so. The aggregate claim would still be over $20 billion. If the law firm managing the case takes its customary 30%, that's a $6 billion incentive to respond to this invitation.
Will the suit succeed? Before a jury, I don't see how it can fail; we have the FedGov dead to rights, and some on the jury will have suffered the ministrations of the CBP, or be related to someone who has. No doubt the success will be appealed, and if it reaches the Supreme Court its fate will be less predictable; perhaps the award will be reduced somewhat. But the acute embarrassment to the FedGov will in any event be a pleasure to behold, and the more the award is reduced the greater will become the public disgust at its lawless arrogance. The Libertarian cause will have been advanced.
WANTED, therefore, is a lawyer with a backbone. I'd like to play a part, and no doubt other lay ZGB readers might be interested; there will be a large initial or setup task needed, to marshal a set of claimants. Advertisements in airline in-flight magazines might be one method, but other ways of spreading news of the opportunity will be needed too. I have some ideas.
But first, the lawyer. Ideally he or she should have a successful record of beating government in class actions, and a passionate wish to see it reduced or eliminated. Applications are invited via this email link.