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IPFS News Link • Courtroom and Trials

Supreme Court Makes Federal Officials 'Absolutely Immunized' From Personal Lawsuits

• https://www.govexec.com, ERIC KATZ

The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it even more difficult for U.S. citizens to bring lawsuits against federal employees who violate their constitutional rights, narrowing the already limited path to do so. 

In Egbert v. Boule, the conservative majority on the court ruled an individual business owner did not have cause to bring an action seeking damages against a federal agent accused of physically assaulting him. The ruling set a broad precedent that legal experts said would make it virtually impossible to sue federal officials. 

The case involved Richard Boule, who owns the Smuggler's Inn, a bed and breakfast near the U.S.-Canada border in Washington. Boule worked as an informant for Customs and Border Protection, occasionally facilitating transportation and lodging for undocumented immigrants and subsequently reporting them to federal officers. In 2014, a scuffle took place between Boule and a Border Patrol agent, Erik Egbert. Boule had informed Egbert of a potential undocumented immigrant arriving at his inn, but Boule resisted when Egbert came to investigate and the agent allegedly pushed the inn owner to the ground. 

Egbert allegedly then reported Boule to the Washington Department of Licensing for his "SMUGLER" license plate and to the Internal Revenue Service, which prompted an audit. Boule eventually sued Egbert for a Fourth Amendment excessive use of force violation and a First Amendment unlawful retaliation violation.