On June 4th, a long-running lawsuit against the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was finally brought to a close. After 11 long years of fighting charges of fraud and conspiracy with every trick in the book, CAIR was forced to settle after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the case must be brought to open trial. CAIR faced the risk of being socked with over a million dollars in attorney costs if it had lost. But worse for CAIR was the certainty of having its dirty laundry openly aired in court.
The case itself was shocking. In 2006, the now-defunct Virginia chapter of CAIR hired a man named Morris Days as a lawyer to serve local Muslims in need of legal advice. However, Days was not actually a lawyer and had never been to law school; worse, he extorted money from his Muslim clients for the supposedly pro bono legal advice he was expected to give them, and then proceeded to let their cases languish without action. Hundreds of Muslims were harmed; at least one of Days’ clients was deported from the United States due to his incompetence.
So far, the falsehoods by Days would be a simple case of fraud perpetrated on both the unfortunate clients and on CAIR-VA, his employer. But it gets worse. The now-settled lawsuit, filed in December 2008 by the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) and backed by the support of the Middle East Forum, alleged that CAIR-VA found out about Days’s extortion at least by November 2007 and his lack of a law license by March 2008 — and then worked overtime to cover up his crimes against fellow Muslims, refusing to notify law enforcement and offering a small handful of the victims money in exchange for their silence.
The terms of the settlement are confidential, as is typical. However, the lead plaintiff’s attorney, David Yerushalmi, stated: “Our clients are extremely happy with the settlement and, in fact, they are so happy, they have authorized me to declare publicly that they have no problem disclosing all of the terms and conditions of the settlement agreement if CAIR agrees. It is unlikely CAIR would agree, of course, because it is unlikely CAIR wants the public to learn the terms of the settlement.”
So far, CAIR has not responded.
This is not a surprise. Why would CAIR want to disclose details about how it victimized fellow Muslims who had come to its offices seeking help? Why would CAIR want people to know that CAIR valued its own reputation more than it valued justice for its own defrauded community? Why would CAIR want people to read about just how badly its offices were run, so that a fake lawyer could fraudulently engage in shoddy law and extortion for nearly two years without interference? And why would it want people to learn about its craven refusal to accept responsibility?
Of course, people already knew about the lawsuit’s allegations from court filings. Could it be that what the AFLC found during the discovery phase was even worse? If so, what kind of criminal frauds could the AFLC have uncovered?
We may never know. But CAIR could settle the question by taking up Mr. Yerushalmi’s offer, and disclosing the terms of the settlement. After all, how bad could it possibly be?
CAIR brushes aside the many allegations of its extremism by claiming that it works for the welfare of all American Muslims. This lawsuit shows how hollow that claim is. When push came to shove, it appears that CAIR chose to aid and abet fraud and victimize needy Muslims rather than upholding justice and doing the right thing.
Dr. Oren Litwin is the associate director of the Islamism in Politics project of the Middle East Forum.