Constitutional rights lawsuit is junked in favor of CBP officers


A final judgment on the pleadings was granted in favor of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Dennis Jacobs and seven unnamed CBP officers in the lawsuit filed by a Chinese teacher who had accused them of denying her entry to Saipan on suspicion that she was pregnant. She claims she was handcuffed, her face slammed against the wall, and placed in isolation for 22 hours.

In Yu Min Zhao v. Dennis Jacobs, et al., Civil Case No. 1 3-00028 (D.N. Mar. I.), the plaintiff filed a Bivens lawsuit against the CBP officers, claiming that the officers violated her right to be free from excessive force and her right to equal protection during the immigration inspection process.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, on behalf of Jacobs, filed a motion arguing that Jacobs was entitled to a judgment in his favor because, even though he was named in the lawsuit, he was not accused of any wrongdoing. In fact, he was not present during the time of the allegations in the complaint. Further, CBP’s inquiry into an alien’s purpose for entering the NMI and the detention and removal of an inadmissible alien (in this case, for indications of an intention to overstay the visa waiver) are part of CBP’s duties under immigration laws.

On Jan. I2, 20I5, the District Court for the NMI granted the judgment on all grounds. The court held that Jacobs was protected under the law as a federal employee because none of the allegations tied him to any constitutional violations. The court also found that the relief requested by the plaintiff—an injunction and a declaratory judgment—is barred under Bivens law. Ultimately, the court found that the true nature of the lawsuit was a challenge to CBP’s determination of the plaintiff’s inadmissibility to enter the NMI rather than constitutional violations, which is also not permitted under Bivens law.

The court gave the plaintiff an opportunity to amend her complaint, and she failed to do so. On March 20, 20l5, the court entered a final judgment on all grounds in favor of Jacobs and the other unnamed officers.

According to Alicia A.G. Limtiaco, U.S. Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, “Bivens law permits federal employees to be sued in their personal capacities for actions taken during the course of their official duties. Protection of federal employees for legitimate actions performed in the course of their official duties is critical to the effectiveness of the federal government. As noted by the Supreme Court in Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635 (1987), Bivens lawsuits exact substantial social costs, including ‘expenses of litigation, the diversion of official energy from pressing public issues, and the deterrence of able citizens from acceptance of public office.’ In cases such as this where the government demonstrates that legitimate actions were taken in the course of one’s official duties and that the complaint against the individuals is without merit, dismissal is the appropriate and just remedy.”

This case was defended by assistant U.S. attorneys Jessica F. Cruz and Mikel W. Schwab.

Saipan Tribune

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