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In Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1971), the U.S. Supreme Court held that federal officers can be held civilly liable—sued—for conduct that violates constitutional rights. In a recent legal filing, a federal Border Patrol agent asked the Court to “reconsider Bivens” and make it effectively impossible to sue rogue federal officers over their rights-violating conduct. To make matters worse, some members of the Supreme Court might be willing to take the agent up on the offer.
The case is Egbert v. Boule. Robert Boule owns a bed-and-breakfast in Washington state near the U.S.-Canadian border. Border Patrol agent Erik Egbert wanted to question one of Boule’s guests, a Turkish national, about his immigration status. Boule asked the agent to leave his property but Egbert refused. Egbert then allegedly shoved Boule against a car and pushed him to the ground, injuring Boule’s back. Boule later complained to Egbert’s superiors about this mistreatment. In retaliation for that complaint, the agent asked the IRS to investigate Boule’s tax status. Boule was audited.
Boule filed a Bivens complaint against Egbert, suing the agent in federal court for violating his rights under both the First Amendment (for retaliating against Boule’s lawful speech complaining about the agent’s conduct) and the Fourth Amendment (for refusing to leave Boule’s property and using force against him).
This article was originally published on Reason.com. Read the full article.
Reason is the nation’s leading libertarian magazine. They produce hard-hitting independent journalism on civil liberties, politics, technology, culture, policy, and commerce.