Case Overview

Legal Principle at Issue

Whether a cause of action exists under Bivens for First Amendment retaliation claims; and whether a cause of action exists under Bivens for claims against federal officers engaged in immigration-related functions for allegedly violating a plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights.


In a 9–0 decision issued on June 8, 2022, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling on the First Amendment retaliation claim and split 6–3 on the Fourth Amendment claim. 


In 2014, Robert Boule, an inn owner on the Washington state-Canada border, was shoved to the ground by Customs and Border Patrol Agent Erik Egbert. Why? Boule was attempting to defend one of the inn’s guests. Agent Egbert had tailed the guest — a lawful visitor from Turkey — 125 miles from the airport to the inn, where he approached the guest’s car despite Boule’s multiple requests to leave. After Boule complained to Agent Egbert’s superiors, Agent Egbert retaliated by instigating an IRS investigation of Boule’s business. Boule sued for damages based on this unconstitutional retaliation, all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, on June 8, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled against Boule and held that he could not seek monetary damages for First Amendment retaliation under these circumstances. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority that under Bivens, only Congress may authorize a damage remedy for either asserted First or Fourth Amendment violations for cases against federal agents. In the partial dissent, Sotomayor agreed that the alleged First Amendment violations could not go forward under Bivens, but argued that the Fourth Amendment claim should have been considered.

Importance of Case

The holding in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents does not extend to causes of action for either Boule's claims of First Amendment retaliation or Fourth Amendment excessive-force.

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