569 U.S. 50 (2013), 11-10362, Millbrook v. United States
|Citation:||569 U.S. 50, 133 S.Ct. 1441, 185 L.Ed.2d 531, 81 U.S.L.W. 4223, 24 Fla.L.Weekly Fed. S 123|
|Opinion Judge:||Thomas, Justice|
|Party Name:||KIM MILLBROOK, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES|
|Attorney:||Christopher Julian Paolella argued the cause for petitioner. Anthony A. Yang argued the cause for respondent. Jeffrey S. Bucholtz argued the cause as amicus curiae, appointed by the court, in support of the judgment below.|
|Case Date:||March 27, 2013|
|Court:||United States Supreme Court|
Argued February 19, 2013
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Millbrook v. United States, 477 Fed.Appx. 4 (3d Cir. Pa., 2012)
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) waives the Government's sovereign immunity from tort suits, but excepts from that waiver certain intentional torts, 28 U.S.C. § 2680(h). Section 2680(h), in turn, contains a proviso that extends the waiver of immunity to claims for six intentional torts, including assault and battery, that are based on the " acts or omissions" of an " investigative or law enforcement officer," i.e., a federal officer " who is empowered by law to execute searches, to seize evidence, or to make arrests." Petitioner Millbrook, a federal prisoner, sued the United States under the FTCA, alleging, inter alia, assault and battery by correctional officers. The District Court granted the Government summary judgment, and the Third Circuit affirmed, hewing to its precedent that the " law enforcement proviso" applies only to tortious conduct that occurs during the course of executing a search, seizing evidence, or making an arrest.
Held: The law enforcement proviso extends to law enforcement officers' [185 L.Ed.2d 535] acts or omissions that arise within the scope of their employment, regardless of whether the officers are engaged in investigative or law enforcement activity, or are executing a search, seizing evidence, or making an arrest. The proviso's plain language supports this conclusion. On its face, the proviso applies where a claim arises out of one of six intentional torts and is related to the " acts or omissions" of an " investigative or law enforcement officer." § 2680(h). And by cross-referencing § 1346(b), the proviso incorporates an additional requirement that the " acts or omissions" occur while the officer is " acting within the scope of his office or employment." § 1346(b)(1). Nothing in § 2680(h)'s text supports further limiting the proviso to conduct arising out of searches, seizures of evidence, or arrests. The FTCA's only reference to those terms is in § 2680(h)'s definition of " investigative or law enforcement officer," which focuses on the status of persons whose conduct may be actionable, not the types of activities that may give rise to a claim. This confirms that Congress intended immunity determinations to depend on a federal officer's legal authority, not on a particular exercise of that authority. Nor does the proviso indicate that a waiver of immunity requires the officer to be engaged in investigative or law enforcement activity. The text never uses those terms. Had Congress intended to further narrow the waiver's scope, it could have used language to that effect. See Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 552 U.S. 214, 227, 128 S.Ct. 831, 169 L.Ed.2d 680. Pp. 54-57, 185 L.Ed.2d, at 537-539.
477 Fed.Appx. 4, reversed and remanded.
Christopher Julian Paolella argued the cause for petitioner.
Anthony A. Yang argued the cause for respondent.
Jeffrey S. Bucholtz argued the cause as amicus curiae, appointed by the court, in support of the judgment below.
[133 S.Ct. 1443] Thomas, Justice
Petitioner Kim Millbrook, a prisoner in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), alleges that correctional officers sexually assaulted and verbally threatened him while he was in their custody. Millbrook filed suit in Federal District Court under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § § 1346(b), 2671-2680 (FTCA or Act), which waives the Government's sovereign immunity from tort suits, including those based on certain intentional torts committed by federal law enforcement officers, § 2680(h). The District Court dismissed Millbrook's action, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals held that, while the FTCA waives the United States' sovereign immunity for certain intentional
torts by law enforcement officers, it only does so when the tortious conduct occurs in the course of executing a search, seizing evidence, or making an arrest. Petitioner contends that the FTCA's waiver is not so limited. We agree and reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
[185 L.Ed.2d 536] I
The FTCA " was designed primarily to remove the sovereign immunity of the United States from suits in tort." Levin v. United States, 568 U.S. 503, 506, 133 S.Ct. 1224, 185 L.Ed.2d 343 (2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Act gives federal district courts exclusive jurisdiction over claims against the United States for " injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission" of a federal employee " acting within the scope of his office or employment." 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). This broad waiver of sovereign immunity is subject to a number of exceptions set forth in § 2680. One such exception, relating to intentional torts, preserves the Government's immunity from suit for " [a]ny claim arising out of assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, libel, slander, misrepresentation, deceit, or interference with contract rights." § 2680(h). We have referred to § 2680(h) as the " intentional tort exception." Levin, supra, at 507, 133 S.Ct. 1224, 185 L.Ed.2d 343 (internal quotation marks omitted).
In 1974, Congress carved out an exception to § 2680(h)'s preservation of the United States' sovereign immunity for intentional torts by adding a proviso covering claims that arise out of the wrongful conduct of law enforcement officers. See Act of Mar. 16, 1974, Pub. L. 93-253, § 2, 88 Stat. 50. Known as the " law enforcement proviso," this provision extends
the waiver of sovereign immunity to claims for six intentional torts, including assault and battery, that are based on the " acts or omissions of investigative or law enforcement officers." § 2680(h). The proviso defines " 'investigative or law enforcement officer' " to mean " any officer of the United States who is empowered by law to execute searches, to seize evidence, or to make arrests for violations of Federal law." Ibid.
On January 18, 2011, Millbrook filed suit against the United States under the [133 S.Ct. 1444] FTCA, asserting claims of negligence, assault, and battery. In his complaint, Millbrook alleged that, on March 5, 2010, he was forced to perform oral sex on a BOP correctional officer, while another officer held him in a choke hold and a third officer stood watch nearby. Millbrook claimed that the officers threatened to kill him if he did not comply with their demands. Millbrook alleged that he suffered physical injuries as a result of the incident and, accordingly, sought compensatory damages.
The Government argued that the FTCA did not waive the United...
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