Justia Summary

Boule’s business, “Smuggler's Inn,” abuts the Canadian border. Boule sometimes helped federal agents identify and apprehend persons engaged in unlawful cross-border activities but also provided transportation and lodging to illegal border crossers. Boule informed U.S. Border Patrol agent Egbert that a Turkish national had scheduled transportation to Smuggler’s Inn. Egbert followed Boule's vehicle to the Inn. Boule claims he asked Egbert to leave, but Egbert refused, threw Boule to the ground, checked the immigration paperwork for Boule’s guest, then left.

Boule filed an unsuccessful grievance with Egbert’s supervisors and an unsuccessful administrative claim. Egbert allegedly retaliated by reporting Boule’s license plate to the state for referencing illegal activity, and by prompting an IRS audit. Boule sued Egbert, alleging Fourth Amendment excessive force and First Amendment retaliation.

Reversing the Ninth Circuit, The Supreme Court held that “Bivens” does not extend to Boule’s claims. In Bivens, the Court created a damages action against federal agents for violating a plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights. The Court subsequently fashioned new causes of action under the Fifth and Eighth Amendments.

Recognizing a Bivens cause of action is “a disfavored judicial activity.” Boule’s Fourth Amendment claim presented a new Bivens context, not akin to a “conventional” excessive-force claim. Concerns about undermining border security foreclose Bivens relief. Congress has provided alternative remedies: Border Patrol must investigate alleged violations and accept grievances. The Court has never held that a Bivens alternative must provide for judicial review. Boule’s First Amendment retaliation claim also presents a new Bivens context. Congress is better suited to authorize a damages remedy. Extending Bivens to alleged First Amendment violations would pose an acute “risk that fear of personal monetary liability and harassing litigation will unduly inhibit officials in the discharge of their duties.”