Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Man Has No Claim Based on FBI Agent’s Conduct Outside U.S.
Opinion Says Alleged Action of Causing Plaintiff’s False Arrest on Morals Charge in Thailand Was Properly Dismissed As an Unrecognized Application of Decision in Bivens
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A lawsuit by a U.S. citizen against an FBI agent in the Los Angeles office for having him falsely arrested in Thailand, on a charge of having sex with minors, was properly dismissed for failure to state a cognizable claim, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held yesterday.
The memorandum opinion by a three-judge panel affirms the action of District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez of the Central District of California in jettisoning the lawsuit filed by Christopher Hobbs against FBI special agent Randall Devine and the United States.
Hobbs sued under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1971 decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics which permits actions for damages against federal officials whose actions are in contravention of the Constitution. The plaintiff alleged violations of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as setting forth state claims.
Under the Supreme Court’s 1980 holding in Carlson v. Green, the panel noted, where a Bivens claim is put forth in a “new context,” courts should hesitate before recognizing the claim. It pointed also to the federal high court decision last Feb. 25 in Hernandez v. Mesa where it was held that a Bivens remedy did not exist in the new context of a federal agent, on U.S. soil, fatally shooting a child across the border in Mexico.
In Hobbs’s case, it was alleged that the plaintiff was arrested on June 8, 2014, while he, his wife, and their child were in Thailand; that Devine spoke with him, portraying his purpose as that of assisting him; that Hobbs was incarcerated in a prison for three days; and he was released when it was realized he was not the culprit, that person being one Steven James Strike. Strike was subsequently arrested and deported to the U.S. for prosecution.
The complaint alleges that Hobbs found out in April 2016 that it was Devine who provided false information to the Royal Thai Police (“RTP”) which caused him to be arrested, notwithstanding his knowledge that Hobbs was factually innocent.
“Defendants invited the local media to view the arrest and the interrogation by Defendant Devine and others, of Plaintiff Hobbs and, as a result, his image was broadcasted across all Thai national television and other media,” the complaint sets forth, adding:
“Both during and after his prosecution by the RTP, Plaintiff has devoted his life trying to understand what happened and why.”
From what he’s figured out, it’s recited, the defendants were looking for Strike, a pedophile; he had rented a room from one Daniel Clark, a business associate of Hobbs; they mistook him for Strike.
“What followed was horrific, unlawful, and profoundly unfair,” the complaint says.
The Bivens claim, yesterday’s opinion says, comes in a new context. It declares:
“[T]he same extraterritorial concerns that foreclosed a Bivens claim in Hernandez apply here with greater force. Unlike in Hernandez, all of the critical events that provide the basis for Hobbs’s constitutional claims occurred in Thailand. To recognize a malicious-prosecution suit in this context would touch upon relations between the Thai and American governments, given that Hobbs was arrested and prosecuted by the Royal Thai Police. Hobbs stresses that Devine—not Thai authorities—orchestrated the wrongful accusation, but that argument does not undermine the strong presumption against interfering in the Executive Branch’s relations with foreign countries. These same concerns also apply to Hobbs’s Fourth Amendment false-arrest claim. The district court did not err in dismissing Hobbs’s complaint.”
The case is Hobbs v. Devine, 18-56307.
Comprising the panel were Circuit Judges Richard A. Paez and Bridget Shelton Bade, joined by District Court Judge Jack Zouhary of the Northern District of Ohio, sitting by designation.
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