Any agent of the government has a duty to abide by the U.S. Constitution. However, what to do when those rights are violated is still a question for the courts.
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to proceed with a case that could determine if Border Patrol agents who violate a person’s rights can be sued, the Washington Examiner reported. Oral arguments on the case Egbert v. Boule began Wednesday.
The case stemmed from a 2014 encounter at Smuggler’s Inn located just south of the U.S.-Canada border. The establishment was a bed and breakfast owned by Robert Boule, and agent Erik Egbert confronted a guest from Turkey there despite him being lawfully in the U.S.
Boule asked Egbert to leave, but the agent shoved the proprietor against a car and threw him to the ground. Boule contacted Egbert’s supervisor, and Egbert allegedly retaliated by siccing an IRS agent on Boule.
Though he eventually cleared his name, Boule spent $5,000 in fees to defend himself against the IRS claim. Boule sought a remedy in court that the U.S. Department of Justice defended.
However, Boule’s claim is based on case law from Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents. The 40-year-old case established that certain violations against a person’s constitutional right would justify a lawsuit against an agent that otherwise had immunity. Previously, courts were reluctant to allow such lawsuits, concerned that it would impede agents’ ability to investigate and force the law.
The rule has not been applied to other cases since the initial decision, including one involving a child killed by an agent on the U.S.-Mexico border. However, the high court will decide on the merits of this particular case in the summer.
The Supreme Court will have to decide if this case before them meets the terms for exemption from protections against prosecution for the agent. Though some of the actions taken by the agent appear retaliatory and beyond the scope of his job, the case has not been decided yet.