Millbrook v. United States

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation185 L.Ed.2d 531,133 S.Ct. 1441,569 U.S. 50
Docket NumberNo. 11–10362.,11–10362.
Parties Kim MILLBROOK, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES.
Decision Date27 March 2013

569 U.S. 50
133 S.Ct. 1441
185 L.Ed.2d 531

Kim MILLBROOK, Petitioner

No. 11–10362.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued Feb. 19, 2013.
Decided March 27, 2013.

Christopher J. Paolella, New York, NY, for Petitioner.

Anthony A. Yang, Washington, DC, for Respondent supporting reversal and remand.

Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, appointed by this Court as amicus curiae, supporting the judgement below.

Christopher J. Paolella, Counsel of Record, J. David Reich, Reich & Paolella LLP, New York, NY, for Petitioner.

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Solicitor General, Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant, Attorney General, Edwin S. Kneedler, Deputy Solicitor General, Anthony A. Yang, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Mark B. Stern, Jonathan H. Levy, Attorneys, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Respondent supporting reversal and remand.

Justice THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

569 U.S. 51

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

569 U.S. 52

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.1



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. ––––, ––––, 133 S.Ct. 1224, 1228, 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 ––––, 133 S.Ct., at 1227–1228 (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

569 U.S. 53

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 States' sovereign immunity from suit on Millbrook's intentional tort claims, because they fell within the intentional tort exception in § 2680(h). The Government contended that § 2680(h)'s law enforcement proviso did not save Millbrook's claims because of the Third Circuit's binding precedent in Pooler v. United States, 787 F.2d 868 (1986), which interpreted the proviso to apply only to tortious conduct that occurred during the course of "executing a search, seizing evidence, or making an arrest." Id., at 872. The District Court agreed and granted summary judgment for the United States because the alleged conduct "did not take place during an arrest, search, or seizure of evidence." Civ. Action No. 3:11–cv–00131, 2012 WL 526000 (M.D.Pa., Feb. 16, 2012), App. 96.2

569 U.S. 54

The Third Circuit affirmed. 477 Fed.Appx. 4, 5–6 (2012) (per curiam ).

We granted certiorari, 567 U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 98, ––– L.Ed.2d –––– (2012), to resolve a Circuit split concerning the circumstances under which intentionally tortious conduct by law enforcement officers can give rise to an actionable claim under the FTCA. Compare Pooler,supra ; and Orsay v. United States Dept. of Justice, 289 F.3d 1125, 1136 (C.A.9 2002) (law enforcement proviso "reaches only those claims asserting that the tort occurred in the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
182 cases
  • Payne v. Kerns
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • 12 Mayo 2020
    ...Were the prisoner held in a federal prison, the United States would be liable for false imprisonment. In Millbrook v. United States, 569 U.S. 50, 133 S.Ct. 1441, 185 L.Ed.2d 531 (2013), the unanimous Court held that the waiver of sovereign immunity based on the law enforcement provision in ......
  • Beaulieu v. Ashford Univ.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • 29 Marzo 2021
    ...waiver of sovereign immunity is subject to a number of exceptions, including the intentional tort exception, Millbrook v. United States , 569 U.S. 50, 52, 133 S.Ct. 1441, 185 L.Ed.2d 531 (2013), which bars suits alleging certain intentional torts, including misrepresentation and deceit. 28 ......
  • United States v. Cleveland
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 21 Noviembre 2018 authority, not on a particular exercise of that authority," Response at 8 (brackets in original)(citing Millbrook v. United States, 569 U.S. 50, 56, 133 S.Ct. 1441, 185 L.Ed.2d 531 (2013) ), and urges the Court to adopt a similar interpretation to determine whether Largo was a federal......
  • Gonzagowski v. United States
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 1 Septiembre 2020
    ...a search, seizing evidence, or making an arrest" when they commit the intentional tort. 495 F.Supp.3d 1123 Millbrook v. United States, 569 U.S. 50, 57, 133 S.Ct. 1441, 185 L.Ed.2d 531 (2013).Courts typically look to statutes to determine whether an alleged tortfeasor is a federal law enforc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT