Tag Archives: Brownback v. King

Average Joe SCOTUS: Brownback v. King

James King, some rando 26-year-old college student was walking about town when two FBI agents accosted him, thinking he was a home invasion suspect, because he matched a basic description. Before you assume wrongly, he wasn’t black.

Initially, he complied when he spotted their badges, but when one of them pulled his wallet out of his pocket, he thought he was being mugged, and ran. So they tackled him and beat the fuck out of him.

Once he was out of the hospital, he was arrested for resisting arrest, which is fucking crazy, since officers had no cause to arrest him. The court agreed, and he was dismissed without any charges.

One of the issues at play here, is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). This law was passed in 1946 as a way of basically saying, if government agents wrong you, you can sue government, as opposed to the agents, for the bad things they did in the government’s name. However, there’s an older landmark case,  Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1971 that allows people to sue federal officials for violating any constitutional rights. It also allows people to sue the federal government in federal court if they violated state laws.

Within the FTCA, is a “judgement bar” which basically says, if you sued once for this shit, and a judgement was issued, you can’t sue again elsewhere.

The federal officers are barred from being sued under the controversial principle of qualified immunity, unless certain qualifications are met.

A district court felt King didn’t meet those qualifiers for an FTCA claim, determining he wasn’t a victim under any Michigan law, and dismissed his case. They also dismissed his Bivens claim, citing qualified immunity for the officers.

King, realizing that his FTCA claim didn’t meet the burden he needed to make that claim, decided only to pursue the Bivens claim. But then the court said because his FTCA claim was dismissed, that the judgment bar applied, and therefore he couldn’t sue under the Bivens claim.

King was like, “Are you fucking serious right now?” So he took his case to the 6th circuit who sided with King, and allowed him to proceed suing these FBI dipshits.

So the FBI dipshits are suing in SCOTUS to try to say the judgement bar DOES apply since his FTCA claim was dismissed. King says the judgement bar only applies to actions and judgements, not dismissals on jurisdictional grounds.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS felt King was to be the loser, here. The stated that the bar does in fact get triggered by a dismissal.

You can read about the case in depth here at Oyez or here at SCOTUS Blog