The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against a Blaine innkeeper, the only ruling released Wednesday.
Robert Boule, who owns the bed-and-breakfast Smuggler’s Inn in Blaine, Washington, alleged a border patrol agent had pushed him to the ground in 2014, and after he had complained to the agent’s supervisors, the agent reported him to the IRS.
According to the opinion released Wednesday, the Smuggler’s Inn abuts the international border between Canada and the United States, with 5 feet of Boule’s property on Canadian land.
Boule would sometimes help federal agents identify and arrest people engaged in illegal border crossings, by agreeing to help border crosses enter or exit the United States, then later call federal agents to report the activity.
In 2014, Boule notified a border patrol agent, Erik Egbert, that a Turkish national had scheduled transportation to the Smuggler’s Inn.
When Egbert saw one of Boule’s vehicles returning to the inn, he suspected the Turkish national was a passenger and followed the vehicle to the inn.
Boule claimed that he asked Egbert to leave and when Egbert refused, Egbert became violent and threw Boule against his vehicle and to the ground.
Egbert then left after he checked the immigration paperwork for Boule’s guest and found everything in order.
The Turkish guest would unlawfully enter Canada later that evening.
Boule would later file a grievance with Egbert’s supervisors and an administrative claim with the Border Patrol.
Egbert allegedly retaliated by reporting Boule’s “SMUGLER” license plate to Washington’s Department of Licensing for referencing illegal activity and calling the IRS to prompt an audit of Boule’s finances.
Boule’s claim was later denied, and the Border Patrol took no action against Egbert for his alleged use of force and retaliation.
Boule then sued Egbert in federal district court, alleging a Fourth Amendment violation for the use of force and a First Amendment violation for unlawful retaliation.
The District Court would later rule for Egbert, saying the Supreme Court found in the case of Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, that the suing of federal agents by citizens for violations of their rights could not be extended to First Amendment retaliation claims or Fourth Amendment claims on immigration issues.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit would later reverse the decision, before the case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the mixed ruling on Wednesday, the Supreme Court said Bivens was outdated and shouldn’t be extended to new contexts, saying the justices have “declined 11 times to imply a similar cause of action for other alleged constitutional violations.”
The justices said Congress is better suited to set the rules for constitutional violations, not judges, saying, “In all but the most unusual circumstances, prescribing a cause of action is a job for Congress, not the courts.”
Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan said the ruling “closes the door to Bivens suits by many who will suffer constitutional violations at the hands of federal agents.”
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