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5th Circuirt CBP Checkpoint Lawsuit Appeal Scheduled For Oral Argument

Written by Subject: Homeland Security

Good news regarding Major Richard Rynearson's lawsuit against the Border Patrol has recently surfaced. After having his case dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Del Rio in September of last year, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to review the case and hear oral argument sometime in the next few months.

The rational used by the district court to dismiss the case was quite weak to say the least and showed a strong bias in favor of the defendants. As such, it's good to see the Appeals Court willing to take the case on and hopefully set the record straight.

For those unfamiliar with the case, it basically involves an extended detention at an internal Border Patrol checkpoint near Uvalde, Texas in 2010 of an air force officer who dared to ask a few questions the Border Patrol didn't like while being detained. To punish him, the agents illegally extended the detention for nearly thirty four minutes and contacted his commanding officer in an attempt to get him in trouble for exercising his rights.

In his lawsuit, the plaintiff asserts, rightfully so, the following:

 "The agents unlawfully extended the stop in three principal ways: delaying asking immigration-related questions while conducting unrelated investigations, engaging in no apparent inspection or investigation whatsoever for eleven minutes, and holding Rynearson for an additional ten to fifteen minutes while calling Laughlin in order to confirm Rynearson's "military identity" and to engage in a discussion with Security Forces and Rynearson's commander regarding the checkpoint stop." - 5th Circuit Appeal - Case #13-51114

The Appeals Court documentation, including the following:

  • The Appellant Brief
  • The Texas Civil Rights Project Brief For Amicus Curiae
  • The Appellees Response Brief
  • The Appellant's Reply Brief
  • can be found online here. Alternatively, the documentation, along with a discussion of the case can be found at Veterans Against Police Abuse.

    For those generally interested in the legal issues surrounding suspicionless Customs & Border Protection checkpoint stops, I highly recommend that you work your way through the legal analysis from the various briefs submitted in the appeal. One such example appears below:

    "In sum, regardless of the district court's view of what 'courts have expected' a citizen to do when faced with a suspicionless checkpoint, ROA.486, the law is well-established that the Fourth Amendment does not compel him to answer questions or produce identification documents. Hiibel, 542 U.S. at 187 ('[T]he Fourth Amendment itself cannot require a suspect to answer questions.'). And the Fourth Amendment's strictures on government action—i.e., the tight limits upon the government's ability to detain individuals at suspicionless checkpoints—are not loosened by a citizen's decision to stand on his rights. See Machuca-Barrera, 261 F.3d at 435 (It 'would make a mockery of the reasonable suspicion and probable cause requirements … if citizens' insistence that searches and seizures be conducted in conformity with constitutional norms could create the suspicion or cause that renders their consent unnecessary.)"

    Additionally, the Amicus Curiae Brief filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project is especially interesting for those individuals concerned about whether or not they have a legal obligation to answer questions from Border Patrol agents or otherwise cooperate with their detention. The same analysis is generally valid for many other compelled interactions with law enforcement personnel so has applicability outside the circumstances of the case at hand.

    I've previously written about Major Rynearson's case several times before. Links to those previous articles can be found at:

  • Uvalde, Texas Checkpoint Lawsuit Goes To Appeals
  • Border Patrol Retaliating Against Americans At Work
  • Additional Video from Uvalde, Texas Checkpoint Incident Released
  • Border Patrol Harass Military Field Grade Officer At Internal Checkpoint
  • Also, video of the checkpoint incident giving rise to the lawsuit in question appears below:

    <iframe width="460" height="265" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/4BId1f8WG2s?list=PL61GZnAG9HibM0W0Rf9Tz64xoYGk5k3W8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>iframe>


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