Bivens Claim Legal Definition

Bivens Claim Legal Definition

In Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971), the Supreme Court held that a petitioner whose fourth amendment rights were violated by federal agents was entitled to redress his injury through a federal suit for damages.

Although there existed no applicable statutory cause of action for the alleged constitutional interference, the court recognized a federal right of action where the complainant would otherwise be deprived of an adequate remedy. Id. 403 U.S. at 395-97, 91 S.Ct. at 2004-05, 29 L.Ed.2d at 626-27.

Bivens-type actions are somewhat extraordinary and are restricted to the vindication of the constitutional rights of an aggrieved victim only when no equally effective remedy is available. Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 99 S.Ct. 2264, 60 L.Ed.2d 846 (1979).

After oral argument in this case, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Bush v. Lucas, U.S. 103 S.Ct. 2404, 76 L.Ed.2d 648 (1983), unanimously holding that a federal employee may not assert a Bivens-type claim for an alleged violation of his first amendment rights by his superiors. In thus affirming the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the Supreme Court declared that the judiciary "must pay particular heed to any special factors counselling hesitation before authorizing a new kind of federal litigation." Id., 103 S.Ct. at 2411.

In Bush, the unique relationship between the federal government and its civil service employees is precisely such a "special factor." Id., at 103 S.Ct. at 2408.

Observing that Congress has neither specifically authorized nor expressly precluded the remedy sought by the petitioner, the Court declined to create such a cause of action stating:

In all events, Congress is in a far better position than a court to evaluate the impact of a new species of litigation between federal employees on the efficiency of the civil service. Not only has Congress developed considerable familiarity with balancing governmental efficiency and the rights of employees, but it also may inform itself through factfinding procedures such as hearings that are not available to the courts. Nor is there any reason to discount Congress' ability to make an evenhanded assessment of the desirability of creating a new remedy for federal employees who have been demoted or discharged for expressing controversial views. Id., at 103 S.Ct. at 2417.