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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Districts of Guam & the Northern Mariana Islands

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Constitutional Rights Lawsuit Dismissed in Favor of CBP Officers

     ALICIA A.G. LIMTIACO, United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI), announced that a Final Judgment on the Pleadings was granted in favor of defendants Dennis Jacobs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer, and seven "John Doe" and "Jane Doe" CBP officers in Yu Min Zhao v. Dennis Jacobs, et al. , Civil Case No. 13-00028 (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 Officer Dennis Jacobs, filed a motion arguing that Officer Jacobs was entitled to a judgment in his favor because, even though he was named in the lawsuit, he was not accused of any wrong doing. In fact, he was not present during the timeframe 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 January 12, 2015, the District Court for the NMI granted the judgment on all grounds.  The court held that Officer 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, 2015, the court entered a final judgment on all grounds in favor of Officer Jacobs and the other unnamed officers.

     U.S. Attorney Alicia A.G. Limtiaco stated, "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 oflitigation, 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.

Updated April 17, 2015