552 U.S. 214 (2008), 06-9130, Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

Docket Nº:06-9130.
Citation:552 U.S. 214, 128 S.Ct. 831
Opinion Judge:Thomas, Justice
Party Name:Abdus-Shahid M. S. ALI, Petitioner, v. FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS et al.
Attorney:Jean-Claude Andre, by appointment of the Court, 551 U.S. 1186, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Michael G. Smith, Peter K. Stris, Shaun P. Martin, and Brendan Maker. Kannon K. Shanmugam argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Clem...
Judge Panel:THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, GINSBURG, and ALITO, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, SOUTER, and BREYER, JJ., joined, post, p. 228. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, J., joined, po...
Case Date:January 22, 2008
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 214

552 U.S. 214 (2008)

128 S.Ct. 831

Abdus-Shahid M. S. ALI, Petitioner,

v.

FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS et al.

No. 06-9130.

United States Supreme Court

January 22, 2008

Argued October 29, 2007.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT No. 06-9130.

[128 S.Ct. 832] Syllabus

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) waives the United States' sovereign immunity for claims arising out of torts committed by federal employees, see 28 U.S. C. §1346(b)(1), but, as relevant here, exempts from that waiver "[a]ny claim arising in respect of the assessment or collection of any tax or customs duty, or the detention of any . . . property by any officer of customs or excise or any other law enforcement officer," §2680(c). Upon his transfer from an Atlanta federal prison to one in Kentucky, petitioner noticed that several items were missing from his personal property, which had been shipped to the new facility by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Alleging that BOP officers had lost his property, petitioner filed this suit under, inter alia, the FTCA, but the District Court dismissed that claim as barred by §2680(c). Affirming, the Eleventh Circuit rejected petitioner's argument that the statutory phrase "any officer of customs or excise or any other law enforcement officer" applies only to officers enforcing customs or excise laws.

Held:

Section 2680(c)'s text and structure demonstrate that the broad phrase "any other law enforcement officer" covers all law enforcement officers. Petitioner's argument that §2680(c) is focused on preserving sovereign immunity only for officers enforcing customs and excise laws is inconsistent with the statute's language. "Read naturally, the word 'any' has an expansive meaning, that is, 'one or some indiscriminately of whatever kind.' " United States v. Gonzales, 520 U.S. 1, 5, 117 S.Ct. 1032, 137 L.Ed.2d 132. For example, in considering a provision imposing an additional sentence that was not to run concurrently with "any other term of imprisonment," [128 S.Ct. 833]18 U.S. C. §924(c)(1), the Gonzales Court held that, notwithstanding the subsection's initial reference to federal drug trafficking crimes, the expansive word "any" and the absence of restrictive language left "no basis in the text for limiting" the phrase "any other term of imprisonment" to federal sentences. 520 U.S.,

at 5, 117 S.Ct. 1032. To similar effect, see Harrison v. PPG Industries, Inc., 446 U.S. 578, 588-589, 100 S.Ct. 1889, 64 L.Ed.2d 525, in which the Court held that there was "no indication whatever that Congress intended" to limit the "expansive language" " 'any other final action' " to particular kinds of agency action. The reasoning of Gonzales and Harrison applies equally to 28 U.S. C. §2680(c): Congress' use of "any" to modify "other law enforcement officer" is most naturally read to mean law enforcement officers of whatever kind. To be sure, the text's references

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to "tax or customs duty" and "officer[s] of customs or excise" indicate an intent to preserve immunity for claims arising from an officer's enforcement of tax and customs laws. The text also indicates, however, that Congress intended to preserve immunity for claims arising from the detention of property, and there is no indication of any intent that immunity for those claims turns on the type of law being enforced. Recent amendments to §2680(c) restoring the sovereign immunity waiver for officers enforcing any federal forfeiture law, see §2680(c)(1), support the Court's conclusion by demonstrating Congress' view that, prior to the amendments, §2680(c) covered all law enforcement officers. Against this textual and structural evidence, petitioner's reliance on the canons of statutory construction ejusdem generis and noscitur a sociis and on the rule against superfluities is unconvincing. The Court is unpersuaded by petitioner's attempt to create ambiguity where the statute's structure and text suggest none. Had Congress intended to limit §2680(c)'s reach as petitioner contends, it easily could have written "any other law enforcement officer acting in a customs or excise capacity." Instead, it used the unmodified, all-encompassing phrase "any other law enforcement officer." This Court must give effect to the text Congress enacted. Pp. 217-228.

204 Fed. Appx. 778, affirmed.

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, GINSBURG, and ALITO, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, SOUTER, and BREYER, JJ., joined, post, p. 228. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. 243.

COUNSEL

Jean-Claude Andre, by appointment of the Court, 551 U. S. 1186, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Michael G. Smith, Peter K. Stris, Shaun P. Martin, and Brendan Maker.

Kannon K. Shanmugam argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Clement, Assistant Attorney General Keisler, Deputy Solicitor General Kneedler, and Mark B. Stern.

[128 S.Ct. 834] OPINION

Thomas, Justice.

This case concerns the scope of 28 U.S. C. §2680, which carves out certain exceptions to the United States' waiver of sovereign immunity for torts committed by federal employees. Section 2680(c) provides that the waiver of sovereign

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immunity does not apply to claims arising from the detention of property by "any officer of customs or excise or any other law enforcement officer." Petitioner contends that this clause applies only to law enforcement officers enforcing customs or excise laws, and thus does not affect the waiver of sovereign immunity for his property claim against officers of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). We conclude that the broad phrase "any other law enforcement officer" covers all law enforcement officers. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals upholding the dismissal of petitioner's claim.

I

Petitioner Abdus-Shahid M. S. Ali was a federal prisoner at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, from 2001 to 2003. In December 2003, petitioner was scheduled to be transferred to the United States Penitentiary Big Sandy (USP Big Sandy) in Inez, Kentucky. Before being transferred, he left two duffle bags containing his personal property in the Atlanta prison's Receiving and Discharge Unit to be inventoried, packaged, and shipped to USP Big Sandy. Petitioner was transferred, and his bags arrived some days later. Upon inspecting his property, he noticed that several items were missing. The staff at USP Big Sandy's Receiving and Discharge Unit told him that he had been given everything that was sent, and that if things were missing he could file a claim. Many of the purportedly missing items were of religious and nostalgic significance, including two copies of the Qur'an, a prayer rug, and religious magazines. Petitioner estimated that the items were worth $177.

Petitioner filed an administrative tort claim. In denying relief, the agency noted that, by his signature on the receipt form, petitioner had certified the accuracy of the inventory listed thereon and had thereby relinquished any future claims relating to missing or damaged property. Petitioner then filed a complaint alleging, inter alia, violations of the

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Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S. C. §§1346, 2671 et seq. The BOP maintained that petitioner's claim was barred by the exception in §2680(c) for property claims against law enforcement officers. The District Court agreed and dismissed petitioner's FTCA claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Petitioner appealed.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing with the District Court's interpretation of §2680(c). 204 Fed. Appx. 778, 779-780 (2006) (per curiam). In rejecting petitioner's arguments, the Court of Appeals relied on this Court's broad interpretation of §2680(c)'s "detention" clause in Kosak v. United States, 465 U.S. 848, 854-859, 104 S.Ct. 1519, 79 L.Ed.2d 860 (1984), on decisions by other Courts of Appeals, and on its own decision in Schlaebitz v. United States Dept. of Justice, 924 F. 2d 193, 195 (1991) (per curiam) (holding that United States Marshals, who were allegedly negligent in releasing a parolee's luggage to a third party, were "law enforcement officers" under §2680(c)). See 204 Fed. Appx., at 779-780.

We granted certiorari, 550 U.S. 968, 127 S.Ct. 2875, 167 L.Ed.2d 1151 (2007), to resolve the disagreement among the Courts of Appeals as to the scope of [128 S.Ct. 835] §2680(c).1

II

In the FTCA, Congress waived the United States' sovereign immunity for claims arising out of torts committed

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by federal employees. See 28 U.S. C. §1346(b)(1). As relevant here, the FTCA authorizes "claims against the United States, for money damages . . . for injury or loss of property . . . caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment." Ibid. The FTCA exempts from this waiver certain categories of claims. See §§2680(a)-(n). Relevant here is the exception in subsection (c), which provides that §1346(b) shall not apply to "[a]ny claim arising in respect of the assessment or collection of any tax or customs duty, or the detention of any goods, merchandise, or other property by any officer of customs or excise or any other law enforcement officer." §2680(c).

This case turns on whether the BOP officers who allegedly lost petitioner's property qualify as "other law enforcement officer[s]" within the meaning of §2680(c).2Petitioner argues that they do not because "any other law enforcement officer" includes only law enforcement officers acting...

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