Haase v. Sessions – Government Misconduct – CCR Docket 1988-1989

Returning from Nicaragua in January 1985 Edward Haase, a Kansas City-based journalist, was stopped by U.S. Customs and FBI officials. He was detained for five hours as agents seized, read, and photocopied his ad­dress book, notes, diary, and other personal papers. These actions were taken under the purported authority of 19 U.S.C. §1305, a stat­ute which permits Customs to seize materials that are “likely and intended to produce immi­nent lawless action.”

CCR attorneys filed a lawsuit challenging the seizure and demanding that the FBI return the photocopied materials. The suit charged that the seizure violated the free speech and as­sociation provisions of the First Amendment, and the search and seizure safeguards of the Fourth Amendment. It charged that Customs and the FBI follow a policy of abusing Customs’ limited authority in order to harass and/or gather intelligence from U.S. citizens returning from Nicaragua.

The court granted Haase’s request for a temporary restraining order and ordered the papers returned. It refused, however, to allow Haase to challenge the incident as a policy, or to seek any information about FBI dissemination of the seized documents in discovery. The court concluded the incident was an isolated one and unlikely to recur.

The court of appeals reversed the district court’s dismissal of Haase’s claim for equitable relief and remanded the matter to the district court. The CCR sought a rehearing concerning the terms of the remand, which limited, in the interest of “national security,” plaintiffs  right to present his case. The appellate court granted plaintiffs request and amended its earlier deci­sion. By the time the case was remanded to the district court, the CCR had obtained the injunctive relief concerning Customs policy in the Heidy case, so plaintiff volun­tarily dismissed Haase.

David Cole, Michael Ratner, Margaret Ratner, with CCR cooperating attorneys John J. Privitera and Michael Maggio