Trials & Litigation

Suit targeting Council on American-Islamic Relations over fake lawyer is reinstated by DC Circuit

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A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit seeking to hold the Council on American-Islamic Relations Action Network responsible for a contract employee at a regional chapter who falsely claimed to be a lawyer.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled against CAIR’s national office in a decision (PDF) on Tuesday. The suit contends that the employee, Morris Days, took money from CAIR clients for legal services he never performed. The plaintiffs alleged financial loss and emotional distress.

CAIR’s regional chapter hired Days as civil rights manager in 2006 on an independent contractor basis, according to the opinion. His job was to advocate for CAIR clients without performing legal services; if legal help was required, Days referred the clients to lawyers. Over time, Days falsely represented to CAIR, the public and CAIR clients that he was a lawyer.

CAIR had a policy against accepting legal fees from civil rights clients, but Days began requesting and accepting fees for legal services he never performed, the opinion says. The chapter’s executive director, who was also an employee of CAIR National, learned Days accepted money on two occasions and warned Days not to do it again. After Days accepted money a third time, the executive director gave Days a written warning. After a fourth incident, the chapter fired Days.

After Days’ firing, CAIR discovered Days was not a lawyer.

The appeals court reversed a grant of summary judgment to the national office. The court said the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that CAIR national had consented for Days to act on its behalf. The evidence included news articles on CAIR’s website and in CAIR publications about Days, CAIR national’s tracking of Days’ cases in a central database, its takeover of the regional chapter’s client files, and its compensation to some victims of Days’ fraud.

The case is Lopez v. Council on American-Islamic Relations Action Network.

Hat tip to @Aaron_L_Nielson.

Third paragraph corrected on June 22 to state that Days falsely represented that he was a lawyer.

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