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If the police lie, should they be held accountable?  Often the answer is no.

In a case before the United States Supreme Court last year, James King, a student on his way to work in Grand Rapids, Mich., Was mistaken for a suspect by two plainclothes members of a group working on the fugitives – one federal, one local – who beat him so savagely that passers-by called 911. The government maintains that it should not be able to prosecute either officer.

Some exceptions to this broad immunity were allowed, in a 1971 Supreme Court case in which federal narcotics officers raided a man’s home, arrested him in front of his family, and subjected him to a search. naked, all without a warrant. The court said the man, Webster Bivens, could seek damages for Fourth Amendment violations even though Congress had not specifically authorized such lawsuits.

But in recent years, the now more conservative court has distanced itself from the Bivens decision, encouraging some lower courts to interpret it so narrowly that potential claimants now have virtually no recourse – a situation that Ms. Mohamud’s lawyers are trying to resolve. address in his last call.

“The reductio ad absurdum here is that all of the defendants in our cases could have intentionally, on camera, shoot and kill these people and laugh while they were doing it, and the courts say, ‘Well, sorry, that is really a political decision for Congress; we can’t let you sue them, ”said Patrick Jaicomo, a lawyer at the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that represents Ms. Mohamud and others in similar cases.

Some people who lodged complaints against the police were told that they could not prosecute because the circumstances did not exactly reproduce what had happened to Mr Bivens.

When José Oliva, a 70-year-old Vietnamese veteran, was strangled and assaulted at the entrance to a veterans hospital, for example, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected his claim in part. because the federal agents involved had not handcuffed or strip searched in front of his family.

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