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U.S. Border Patrol agents off the hook after court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision to reject Smuggler's Inn owner Bob Boule's lawsuit against a U.S. Border Patrol agent further protects federal law enforcement officials from facing damages for violating constitutional rights.

In the June 8 opinion, justice Clarence Thomas reversed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold Boule's Fourth Amendment excessive-force claim and First Amendment retaliation claim, saying courts were not authorized to assess damages against a border patrol agent. "Because our cases have made clear that, in all but the most unusual circumstances, prescribing a cause of action is a job for Congress, not the courts, we reverse," Thomas wrote.

Greg Boos of Bellingham-based Cascadia Cross-Border Law said the decision guts the Fourth Amendment. Boule sought damages under the Bivens precedent, set in 1971's Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, which gave individuals a cause of action against federal law enforcement officers. But the court opinion limits Bivens as it is the 12th time in 51 years that the court has denied such a right to sue.

Boos, who was part of Boule's original counsel, said by not having a remedy against border patrol and other federal agents, there is no protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

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