Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Yesterday the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in Rodriguez v. Swartz. It’s a particularly interesting case in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Ziglar v. Abbasi and Hernandez v. Mesa.
By a 2-1 vote, the panel affirmed the district court’s refusal to dismiss a claim against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who, while standing on American soil, shot and killed a teenage Mexican citizen who was walking down a street in Mexico. (In the interest of full disclosure, I joined an amicus brief on behalf of law professors in support of the plaintiff-appellee.)
Judge Andrew Kleinfeld’s majority opinion concludes:
Under the particular set of facts alleged in this case, Swartz is not entitled to qualified immunity. The Fourth Amendment applies here. No reasonable officer could have thought that he could shoot J.A. dead if, as pleaded, J.A. was innocently walking down a street in Mexico. And despite our reluctance to extend Bivens, we do so here: no other adequate remedy is available, there is no reason to infer that Congress deliberately chose to withhold a remedy, and the asserted special factors either do not apply or counsel in favor of extending Bivens.
Of course, the facts as pleaded may turn out to be unsupported. When all of the facts have been exposed, the shooting may turn out to have been excusable or justified. There is and can be no general rule against the use of deadly force by Border Patrol agents. But in the procedural context of this case, we must take the facts as alleged in the complaint. Those allegations entitle J.A.’s mother to proceed with her case.
Judge Milan Smith dissented, arguing that no Bivens action was available.