Are There Any Recent Interesting U.S. Supreme Court cases?
August 1, 2020 | View PDF
There are and one that I am reviewing almost parallels the other regarding the facts of the case. The case that I am writing about is Hernandez, et al. v Mesa, No. 17-1678 decided on 25 February 2020 in the United States Supreme Court. In 2010, Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca, a 15-year-old Mexican national, was said to be playing with other friends running up and down a mostly-dry culvert that extends between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The culvert center is the border between Mexico and the United States. The family stated the boys were running back and forth between borders, touching the U.S. fence, but U.S. Customs Border Patrol Agent Mesa said that the boy was a part of an illegal border crossing and that the boys had pelted him with rocks. Mesa had arrived on a bike and managed to capture one of the boys on U.S. soil. Then, he fired his weapon at Güereca at least twice, hitting him in the face and killing him. Güereca was standing on the Mexico side, and Mesa was firing from the United States side. The Department of Justice declined to press charges against Mesa, saying it did not violate either policy or training. Some Supreme Court justices described Mesa as a rogue agent.
Thinking this was highly unusual in that area, I also read about a Federal case, Rodriquez v. Swartz, 899 F. 3rd. 719 (2018) that was an ongoing case at the same time as Hernandez. Rodriquez also involving a United States Customs Agents shooting across United States and Mexico borders, resulting in the death of a male minor, J.A. Rodriquez facts disclosed that J.A. was said to have been walking down a street in Nogales, Mexico just after midnight and without provocation was shot at multiple times by Schwartz until he was hit and killed. Both cases sought to use Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents from 1971. Bivens had to do with the ability of one to sue a Federal law enforcement employee personally under the guise of acting in their official capacity. It hinged on the Fourth Amendment and unreasonable search and seizure; seizure expanded to a shooting death that forever unreasonably “seizes” a person.
It was the majority 5-4 holding that Bivens does not extend to a cross-border shooting. Though the Court suggested a Fourth Amendment remedy, the majority opinion said there is no Federal Statute that extends to cross border shooting. In addition to Bivens, the Courts have been reluctant to provide damages against U.S. law enforcement when outside U.S. borders, and there is also a desire not to undermine the security of the borders. One must consider that border agents are a line of defense in the security of the United States. Considering everything, the Court has to decide whether Congress or the Courts should make rules for damages outside U.S. borders, and I think the Court saw it as a no-brainer that is the job of Congress. While Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion, Justice Thomas also wrote a concurring opinion in which he said, “The Court correctly applies our precedents to conclude that the implied cause of action created in Bivens v. Six Un-known Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388 (1971), should not be extended to cross-border shootings. I therefore join its opinion. I write separately because, in my view, the time has come to consider discarding the Bivens doctrine altogether. The foundation for Bivens—the practice of creating implied causes of action in the statutory context—has already been abandoned. And the Court has consistently refused to extend the Bivens doctrine for nearly 40 years, even going so far as to suggest that Bivens and its progeny were wrongly decided.”
Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion saying that Bivens did apply in this case and that neither national security nor United States foreign policy.
This article is informative only and not meant to be all inclusive. Additionally this article does not serve as legal advice to the reader and does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. The reader should seek counsel from their attorney should any questions exist. “No representation is made that the quality of legal services performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.”
Ronald A. Holtsford, Esq., Ronald A. Holtsford, LLC
7956 Vaughn Road, Box #124, Montgomery, AL 36116