Border Patrol agents cannot be personally sued in federal court for violating the Constitution by using excessive force, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, according to SCOTUSblog.
Justices in the 6-3 Egbert v. Boule decision stopped short of overruling a 1971 precedent, Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, which allowed claims of monetary damages against federal officials for constitutional violations.
Robert Boule, a U.S. citizen and owner of Smuggler's Inn, a bed-and-breakfast in Blaine, Washington, bordering Canada, sued Erik Egbert, a Border Patrol agent, in 2018 for reportedly throwing him into a vehicle and then to the ground.
Boule provided lodging and transportation to people entering or exiting the U.S. illegally and helped federal agents identify and apprehend people who crossed the border illegally.
In 2014, Boule told Egbert that a Turkish national had scheduled transportation to Smuggler's Inn.
''When Agent Egbert observed one of Boule's vehicles returning to the inn, he suspected that the Turkish national was a passenger and followed the vehicle to the inn. On Boule's account, Boule asked Egbert to leave, but Egbert refused, became violent, and threw Boule first against the vehicle and then to the ground,'' said the court documents.
''Egbert then checked the immigration paperwork for Boule's guest and left after finding everything in order. The Turkish guest unlawfully entered Canada later that evening.''
Justice Clarence Thomas cited national security concerns in the decision.
''Because matters intimately related to foreign policy and national security are rarely proper subjects for judicial intervention,'' Thomas wrote, ''we reaffirm that a Bivens cause of action may not lie where, as here, national security is at issue.''
The court's three liberal judges dissented.
''If the legal standard the Court articulates to reject Boule's Fourth Amendment claim sounds unfamiliar, that is because it is,'' Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote.
''Just five years after circumscribing the standard for allowing Bivens claims to proceed, a restless and newly constituted Court sees fit to refashion the standard anew to foreclose remedies in yet more cases. The measures the Court takes to ensure Boule's claim is dismissed are inconsistent with governing precedent.''
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