ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) submitted an amicus brief in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, urging the judges to overturn a lower court’s decision preventing a victim of police brutality from making his case in court.
In March 2020, Deputy U.S. Marshals executed a warrant against Donald Logsdon for a suspected firearm offense. When they arrived, they found Logsdon working on his neighbor’s generator. Instead of approaching him and executing the warrant, the officers snuck up behind Logsdon, kicked him in the head, and took turns stomping on him while he was unconscious.
Logsdon filed a lawsuit seeking a remedy for the violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. What he didn’t realize is that after the Supreme Court’s decision in Egbert v. Boule, lower courts have made it virtually impossible to sue federal officials for violations of the constitution. As a result, the district court reviewing the case threw out his claim.
“This system of non-accountability for federal officials makes no sense,” said IJ Attorney Trace Mitchell. “If a state or local cop beats you up, you can sue them in federal court, but if a federal officer beats you up, you can’t. That’s simply not how it’s supposed to work.”
Logsdon agrees. That’s why he’s appealing the district court’s ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Fortunately for Logsdon, Egbert did not put to rest every constitutional claim against federal officials. It left open claims that have been explicitly endorsed by Congress. In 1988, Congress explicitly endorsed excessive force claims against federal police, like those brought by Logsdon, when it passed the Westfall Act.
“What happened to Mr. Logsdon is the exact type of constitutional rights violation that Congress sought to address when it passed the Westfall Act,” Mitchell added. “There is no doubt that Congress preserved excessive force claims against rank-and-file police because, at the time the legislation was adopted, it was common practice to sue federal law enforcement officials in federal court for violating people’s Fourth Amendment rights. This is why we are calling on the Tenth Circuit to allow his case to proceed.”
Through its Project on Immunity and Accountability, IJ seeks to hold government officials accountable for violating the rights of everyday Americans. IJ currently has two petitions pending before the United States Supreme Court dealing with immunity issues: One on behalf of a Texas grandmother who was arrested for criticizing her city government, and another on behalf of an innocent then-college student who was beaten to a pulp by two plainclothes members of a federal task force. Among others, IJ is also currently fighting against immunity for a rogue judge who led a warrantless search of a man’s home during a divorce hearing, and against cops who arrested a citizen journalist for doing his job.