A gate stands outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday as Capitol Police prepare for the release of five major rulings by the end of June in Washington, D.C. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday against a man who sued a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent for using excessive force in 2014.
The court determined federal border patrol agents are immune from lawsuits filed by individual private citizens for their actions, according to the majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, and backed by the other five conservative justices.
“The court suggests that Fourth Amendment violations matter less in this context because of ‘likely’ national-security risks,” Thomas wrote, arguing it is more appropriate for Congress to tackle the matter than it is for the judicial system.
“Congress is better positioned to create remedies in the border-security context, and the government already has provided alternative remedies that protect plaintiffs.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed an opinion partially concurring and partially dissenting, which was joined by the two other liberal justices.
The split decision effectively overrules the existing 1971 ruling in Bivens vs. Six Unknown Named Agents, which found “damages may be obtained for injuries consequent upon a violation of the Fourth Amendment by federal officials.”
In that case, federal agents searched the home of a man without having a warrant.
The case, Egbert vs. Boule, was argued March 2. It involves the owner of the Smuggler’s Inn in Blaine, Wash., Robert Boule, who was confronted by CBP officer Erik Egbert and was eventually shoved against his vehicle to the ground.
In Wednesday’s court ruling, Thomas wrote anyone facing a similar situation has the right to file a grievance with the appropriate agency.
Boule did file a report with Customs and Border Patrol, leading to an investigation that eventually cleared Egbert of wrongdoing.