New York Civil Rights And Criminal Defense Lawyers

What are the potential new limits to Bivens claims?

On Behalf of | Monday Oct 11, 2021 | Civil Rights

Civil rights are a guarantee for everyone in New York and the rest of the country to protect them from government overreach. One example is the right that allows a person to sue a police officer for false arrest. Bivens claims are a part of these rights and give people the power to defend themselves against federal officials.

What are Bivens claims?

About 50 years ago, during Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the court allowed the plaintiff to seek civil damages from federal officers who violated their Fourth Amendment rights. After that original case, the court has expanded Bivens claims many times. Bivens claims now cover people who seek damages from federal officers who violate the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments. As Bivens claims expand, they protect a person’s civil rights more.

The Supreme Court’s stance

In 2017, the Supreme Court announced that Bivens claims were good when the court assumed a proper judicial function. Now, the court is deciding to step back and let the legislative drafters handle more tasks. The court agrees that Bivens claims have a place when defending a person’s rights regarding a federal officer’s actions. However, the court will not expand Bivens claims for new context or allow it in cases with other factors.

Hernandez v. Mesa

Blocking Bivens claims when other factors are present started with Hernandez v. Mesa. In this case, two children were running and touching the Mexican border barbwire. A border agent stopped one of the boys on the Texas side, and the other boy ran to the Mexico side. The agent shot and killed the 15-year-old child on the Mexican side. The court announced that the family isn’t allowed to use a Bivens claim against the federal officers because the event happened across borders.

The narrow view of Bivens claims already limits the law. Bivens claims still cover the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments, but the crime has to occur in the United States. Congress could propose new legislation to protect the people of New York and the rest of the country. However, Congress might wait for a formal overruling of Bivens.