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Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics

Citation. 403 U.S. 388 (1971)
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Brief Fact Summary.

A man sued for damages when his apartment was inadvertently searched by the FBI.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A violation of the fourth amendment give raise to a cause of action.


Plaintiff was in his apartment when it was wrongfully entered by federal agents executing a search warrant.  He was arrested on allegations of narcotics trafficking.  His apartment was searched top to bottom, and he was cuffed in front of his family, hauled down to jail, and strip searched.


Does a violation of the fourth amendment right preventing unreasonable search and seizure provide the plaintiff a cause of action?


Yes, the plaintiff has a cause of action for the violation of their rights.


Justice Burger, C.J.

The justice dissents from the majorities opinion because he feels this creates the precedent of a damage remedy which is not provided for, nor enacted by congress.  He opines that congress should enact legislation to guide these issues, which is why he dissents.

Justice Black, J.

The justice dissents on the grounds that Congress has enacted laws that create a cause of action against state officials acting under state law, it has not created the same cause of action for federal officials under federal law, which is why he dissents that there is a cause of action for the plaintiff.


Justice Harlan, J.

The justice concurs in the result of opinion, but sees the question at hand as whether compensatory relief is necessary or merely appropriate for a violation of a constitutional protected interest.


The court found that a violation of a right of the plaintiff would give them a cause of action.  The court reasons that rights are typically remedied with damages, and that this is well established precedent.  The violation of the plaintiff’s rights would grant them the standing to sue and recover damages because citizens’ primary refuge of protection from the government is the judiciary.

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