No Court Remedy for Raid on Home of Jan. 6 Protester
Panel Affirms Dismissal of Fourth Amendment Claim of Man Who Says FBI Agents, With Guns Drawn, Came to His Home at About 5:45 a.m., Handcuffed Him and Others, Searched His Premises and Seized Possessions
By a MetNews Staff Writer
At right is Siaka Massaquoi whose home was raided by the FBI following his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 pro-Trump demonstration in the District of Columbia. At left is Philip Anderson, a fellow Jan. 6 protester.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said yesterday that if an actor whose home was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation based on his attendance at the Jan. 6, 2021 pro-Trump rally in the District of Columbia is to receive redress, it must come from the Executive Branch, not the courts.
A three-judge panel—comprised of Ninth Circuit Judges Morgan Christen and Jennifer Sung and Senior Judge A. Wallace Tashima—affirmed the dismissal of a Fourth Amendment claim by Siaka Massaquoi, the first vice-chair of the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee who ran unsuccessfully last year for the state Assembly.
Dismissal of his claims under the First and Fifth Amendments was previously summarily affirmed by a Ninth Circuit motions panel.
Allegations of Complaint
Massaquoi sued FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, FBI Special Agent Chad Warren of the Los Angeles FBI Field Office, and 20 unnamed agents in a putative class action. His Feb. 1, 2022 amended complaint sets forth (with paragraph numbering omitted):
“On the morning of June 10, 2021, starting at approximately 5:45 AM local time, the home of Plaintiff Massaquoi in North Hollywood was raided by more than a dozen heavily armed FBI agents, possibly as many as 20 he recalls. [¶] The FBI agents came in forcibly with guns drawn. [¶] The team of about a dozen identified themselves as with the FBI…. [¶] In the home at the time with Massaquoi were his roommates Brian, Chris, and Courtney and his two godsons. [¶] Notably, the FBI made no attempt to simply ask Massaquoi for an interview, but woke up the residents early in the morning and barged into the house. [¶] The FBI agents handcuffed the adults in front of the children and took the adults outside of the house not fully dressed. The Plaintiff Massaquoi, who was among those handcuffed, was forcefully taken outside with no shirt or shoes.”
In the course of a search, the FBI seized various possessions of the plaintiff, the pleading says, including a computer, a laptop, a phone, and two radios.
“Massaquoi, through counsel, has demanded the immediate return of these items unlawfully seized without probable cause from Massaquoi’s home, but Defendants have refused to comply, causing continuing severe damage to Plaintiff,” the complaint says.
The plaintiff sought damages pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1971 decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics which authorizes actions based on Fourth Amendment violations by federal officers.
District Court Order
In his March 15, 2022 order dismissing the action without leave to amend, District Judge Stephen V. Wilson of the Central District of California ruled that Massaquoi’s “Bivens claims as to Director Wray fail because Plaintiff does not plead any facts showing that Director Wray caused any supposed Constitutional wrong,” adding:
“Similarly, Plaintiff’s claims as to Agent Warren fail because they do not meet the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) and fall outside scope of permissible Bivens actions.”
That rule provides:
“A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief…shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court’s jurisdiction depends…, (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks.”
The Ninth Circuit said in yesterday’s memorandum opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court “has repeatedly emphasized that expanding the Bivens remedy is a ‘disfavored judicial activity’ and for some time the Court has consistently declined to extend Bivens to any new context or new category of defendants.”
Massaquoi’s claims come in a new context, the judges said, because the agents who raided his home “had a search warrant.” The search in Bivens had been warrantless.
“[T]he claim involves a new category of defendants, the FBI agents and the FBI Director,” the opinion adds. In Bivens, agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics were the defendants.
“We also discern a dispositive special factor,” the opinion continues, setting forth:
“Congress has authorized the Executive to provide an alternative remedial structure for claims like Massaquoi’s….Under Department of Justice regulations implemented pursuant to Congress’s statutory mandate, Massaquoi may report non-frivolous allegations of misconduct to the Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which may investigate the allegations or refer them for investigation by another department….We have held that similar OIG procedures are adequate alternative remedies for Bivens purposes….We are not free to second-guess the Executive’s determination that this ‘remedial process [is] sufficient to secure an adequate level of deterrence.’…Accordingly, the district court properly dismissed Massaquoi’s amended complaint and did not err in denying reconsideration.
The case is Massaquoi v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 22-55448.
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