Courthouse Steps Decision Teleforum: Brownback v. King

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In Brownback v. King, the Court addressed the Federal Tort Claims Act, (FTCA) which waives Federal sovereign immunity to allow plaintiffs to sue the United States for certain torts committed by Federal employees.  The FTCA includes a judgment bar which precludes a plaintiff from suing a federal employee on a cause of action arising from the same subject matter as his FTCA claim. 

Following a violent encounter with two undercover FBI agents, King sued alleging an FTCA cause of action and an implied Bivens claim.  The District Court dismissed both claims.  Then the Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the District Court’s dismissal of King’s FTCA claims did not invoke the FTCA judgment bar because it had not reached the merits so King’s Bivens claim should be able to go forward.  

In a 9-0 opinion written by Justice Thomas, the Court reversed the Sixth Circuit holding the District Court’s decision reached the merits and implicated the FTCA judgment bar.   


Roman Martinez, Partner, Latham & Watkins LLP

Patrick Jaicomo, Attorney, Institute for Justice


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