U.S. Supreme Court hears Bob Boule case


The U.S. Supreme Court heard opening arguments March 2 in Smuggler’s Inn owner Bob Boule’s case against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who allegedly assaulted Boule when questioning him about a person who was staying at the inn.
The case could expand the court’s Bivens precedent to claims filed against border patrol agents under the Fourth and First amendments. The Bivens doctrine shields federal agents from legal liability when the actions in question occur during their work.
On March 2, each side of Egbert v. Boule gave their opening arguments to the court. The court will be back in session Monday, March 21.
Boule filed a lawsuit against border patrol agent Erik Egbert for harassment after the agent suspected Boule of smuggling a Turkish immigrant through the U.S./Canada border in 2014. After Boule reported Egbert to his superiors following the incident, the agent reported Boule to the IRS and other government agencies. Boule argues such actions were in retaliation against him.
The lawsuit claims Egbert was in violation of the First and Fourth amendments, when he used excessive force while confronting Boule.
Boule pleaded guilty in B.C. Superior Court in August 2021 to helping people cross into Canada from his bed-and-breakfast. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, which was considered time served, and 30 months of probation.
Smuggler’s Inn is only steps away from the U.S./Canada border and 0 Avenue. The bed and breakfast has allegedly been used for illegal border crossings and drug trafficking. According to the court petition, Egbert had previously gone to the inn to apprehend people illegally crossing the border, and repeatedly stopped at the inn on his patrols.
The petition also says Boule had served as a paid government informant whose information prompted multiple arrests of his guests but, more recently, been suspected of human trafficking.
Under the Bivens precedent, an individual has a cause of action against federal law enforcement officers, in this case, for violating their freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. The court has yet to extend the precedent to the First Amendment and to border patrol agents. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Boule on both claims, it would expand the breadth of the precedent’s applicability.
Greg Boos of Bellingham-based Cascadia Cross-Border Law said it was the idea of Boule’s original counsel, which included Scott Railton, Breean Beggs and Boos, to use Bivens.
“[The Court] have never found Bivens to apply to the First Amendment,” Boos said. “So if they do find it applies, this would be the first time ever.”
After the initial hearings, Boos said Boule’s case stood on firm ground, as many U.S. Supreme Court judges sounded sympathetic to Boule’s position. “But it’s not over ‘til it’s over.”
A decision is expected by mid-June, Boos said.


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