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Judge Clears Runway for Suit Against Airline Search

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 20, 2018 6:00 AM

A federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing customs agents of illegally searching airline passengers.

In Amadei v. Duke, the agents allegedly wouldn't let the passengers off a domestic flight unless they proved their identity. The agents said they were following procedure, but they did not find the person they were looking for.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis said the plaintiffs made a plausible claim that the search was unwarranted and allowed their case to proceed. As for the defendants, the judge said he will take them at their word.

Blocked the Doors

On Feb. 22, 2017, the lawsuit says, the passengers landed in New York aboard a Delta Airlines flight from San Francisco. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents blocked the doors and demanded to see their IDs.

Nine passengers sued in federal court in New York, saying the search violated their Fourth Amendment rights. They did not consent to the search, their complaint said, and the officers did not have a warrant or reasonable suspicion to search them.

In a motion to dismiss, the defendants said such searches would not likely recur. The judge didn't believe it.

"They responded to various media inquiries by saying that they were following a policy, and the court will take them at their word," Garaufis said.

Stop Similar Searches

The plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. They want orders to stop federal agents from conducting similar searches in the future.

If Garaufis says the word, he no doubt will hold them to it.

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