A broad coalition has developed in a case that requests the Supreme Court to overrule the creation of a “Constitution-free” zone where a federal officer can threaten an innocent bystander with putting a bullet through his skull, try to break a car window and actually fire a weapon trying to kill him.
And get off with no punishment.
The Institute for Justice notes that the case involves a Texas mechanic, Kevin Byrd, who apparently was targeted for death by a federal officer, Homeland Security agent Ray Lamb.
The IJ posted an explanation of the circumstances that created the case:
This legal fight started for Kevin on February 2, 2019, when he was at a restaurant asking questions about a drunk driving car crash that injured the mother of Kevin’s child. There, Kevin encountered the father of the driver involved in the crash—Department of Homeland Security Agent Ray Lamb. Displeased that Kevin was asking questions that could get his son into trouble, Agent Lamb resolved to stop Kevin. With his gun drawn, Lamb jumped out of a truck, yelling that he would “put a bullet through” Kevin’s “f—ing skull” and “blow his head off.” At the time, Kevin was in his car, getting ready to leave the restaurant. The agent tried to enter Kevin’s car by hitting the driver’s side window with his gun. Failing to break through, Lamb tried to shoot Kevin, but his gun malfunctioned.
Byrd called police but wound up in handcuffs because Lamb showed them his federal badge. Watching a video, however, convinced them to arrest Lamb, but no case ever was brought against him, so Byrd went to federal court.
There, an appeals court issued a ruling that said the officer has absolute immunity.
The court explained it was bound by precedent, but one judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did wonder about whether the decision left “redress for a federal officer’s unconstitutional acts … either extremely limited or wholly nonexistent, allowing federal officials to operate in something resembling a Constitution-free zone.”
Byrd’s involvement was prompted by the fact that his former girlfriend, Darcy Wade, the mother of his child, had been in a major vehicle accident while in a vehicle with Eric Lamb, who then was Wade’s boyfriend.
Eric Lamb was Ray Lamb’s son.
“Byrd also became aware that Wade and Eric Lamb had been kicked out of a bar before the car accident occurred. Byrd went to the bar to learn more details…” He was leaving when Ray Lamb apparently in an effort to deter Byrd from finding out anything, “physically threatened him with a gun, and verbally threatened” him, the ruling said.
“Had Agent Lamb worked for a state or local government, a case against him would have proceeded to trial,” said Patrick Jaicomo, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, which represents Kevin in his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. “But because he happens to be a federal cop, he gets away…”
Byrd’s request for a review now has been endorsed by “academic legend” Peter Schuck, of Yale, who has written on the subject of suing the government.
“Schuck argues that the 5th Circuit’s decision denying Kevin his day in court ‘departs radically from this Court’s established framework for evaluating damages claims against federal officials for constitutional torts, creating a split among the circuits,'” IJ reported.
Then there’s the filing from Seth Stoughton of the University of South Carolina School of Law.
He argues that the 5th Circuit ruling will leave no constitutional remedy available for problems in that district.
Then the ACLU, Cato Institute, DKT Liberty Project, Goldwater Institute, Law Enforcement Action Partnership and New Civil Liberties Alliance all insist that where “there is a right, there must be a remedy.”
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