Fourth Amendment

The Third Party Doctrine and Carpenter v. United States - Podcast

Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
Jim Harper, Orin S. Kerr August 18, 2017

According to the Fourth Amendment, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated[.]” But how does that provision apply to the vast troves of information that Americans and businesses increasingly collect, send, receive, and store?

On June 5, 2017, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Carpenter v. United States to resolve the question of whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless gathering of historical cellular phone records that include location information, also known as historical cell-site location information (CSLI). Judge Raymond M. Kethledge wrote for a panel of the Sixth Circuit that “although the content of personal communications is private, the information necessary to get those communications from point A to point B is not.” Historical CSLI, Judge Kethledge wrote, “fall[s] on the unprotected side of [the] line” because it is routing information used to “facilitate personal communications, rather than part of the content of those communications themselves.” Thus, the government does not need a warrant to obtain the information.

The doctrine applied by the Sixth Circuit is called the third-party doctrine. Although an older form of the third-party doctrine was articulated in Ex Parte Jackson (1878), which distinguished between the addressing information for postal mail and its contents, the contemporary third-party doctrine traces its roots to the “reasonable expectation of privacy” test articulated in Katz v. United States(1967). Its modern form is most closely associated with two of Katz’s progeny, United States v. Miller (1976) and Smith v. Maryland (1979). In those cases, the Supreme Court applied Katz and concluded that the information at issue (bank records and information collected by a pen register device) was not entitled to Fourth Amendment protection.


  • Jim Harper, Vice President, Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Orin S. Kerr, Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School

Hernandez v. Mesa - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 7-24-17 featuring Steven Giaier
Steven Giaier July 24, 2017

On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Hernandez v. Mesa. In 2010, Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, a fifteen-year-old Mexican national, died after being shot near the border between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico by Jesus Mesa, Jr., a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Hernandez’s parents, who contend that their son was on Mexican soil at the time of the shooting, sued Mesa in federal district court in Texas, alleging violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. After hearing the case en banc, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ultimately ruled in favor of Mesa, concluding that Hernandez could not assert a Fourth Amendment claim and that Mesa was entitled to qualified immunity on the parents’ Fifth Amendment claim.

In granting certiorari, the U.S. Supreme Court directed the parties to address whether Hernandez’s parents could even raise their claims under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, which, sovereign immunity notwithstanding, recognized an implied right of action for damages against federal officers alleged to have violated a citizen’s constitutional rights. Ultimately, the Court vacated the judgment of the Fifth Circuit and remanded the case. 

In a per curiam opinion, the Court underscored that a Bivens remedy is not available when "special factors counsel[] hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress," and noted that the Court had recently clarified in Ziglar v. Abbasi “what constitutes a special factor counselling hesitation.”  The Fifth Circuit, the Court directed, should on remand resolve in the first instance the extent to which Abbasi may bear on this case. The Court acknowledged that the Fifth Circuit did not address the Bivens issue because that court had concluded that Hernandez lacked any Fourth Amendment rights to assert--but the Supreme Court considered it imprudent to resolve such a consequential question without a resolution of the Bivens issue first. Finally, the Court indicated that the Fifth Circuit had erred in finding qualified immunity for Mesa regardless of any Fifth Amendment violation because the Fifth Circuit had relied on facts about Hernandez’s nationality and ties to the United States that were unknown to Mesa at the time of the shooting.

Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ginsburg joined. Justice Gorsuch took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

To discuss the case, we have Steven Giaier, who is Senior Counsel, House Committee on Homeland Security.

Reauthorization of Section 702 - Podcast

International & National Security Law Practice Group Podcast
Adam T. Klein, Kate Martin, Karen J. Lugo July 19, 2017

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is up for reauthorization in 2017. An earlier version of the program was instituted after 9/11 by President George W. Bush. In 2007, Congress adopted the Protect America Act and one year later passed the FISA Amendments Act, which included Section 702. Section 702 allows the government to target for surveillance non-U.S. citizens “reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.” The authorization does not extend to non-citizens outside the country to gain information on citizens or permanent residents believed to be residing in the United States.

While proponents of the law argue it is necessary for national security, critics claim that U.S. citizens are too often incidentally swept into surveillance due to the nature of the “targeting procedures” employed by intelligence agencies, and therefore reforms are needed to protect their privacy. Our experts discussed reauthorization, what it would mean if Congress chose not to act, and what kinds of reforms are under consideration.


  • Adam Klein, Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security
  • Kate Martin, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress 
  • Moderator: Karen Lugo, Founder, Libertas-West Project

Ziglar v. Abbasi Decided - Are Government Officials Liable for Damages? - Podcast

International & National Security Law Practice Group Podcast
David B. Rivkin Jr. July 07, 2017

Ziglar v. Abbasi is the result of over a decade of remands and appeals. The case was originally filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of incarcerated Muslim, South Asian, and Arab non-citizens who were targeted after 9/11 by law enforcement as “terrorism suspects.” The defendants in the case, high level officials in the Bush administration, such as Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller, and low level detention officials, filed a motion to dismiss, which was rejected by the in the District Court.

In 2009, the Supreme Court decided in Ashcroft v. Iqbal that government officials were not liable for discriminatory actions of their subordinates without evidence they directly ordered the actions. Meanwhile, five of the petitioners in Ziglar settled with the government, and the case was remanded to the District Court and amended. In 2010, the District Court granted a new motion of dismissal, but only for the high level officials. This dismissal was reversed by the Second Circuit.

The main question the Supreme Court answered was whether these high-level government officials could be sued for damages under the Bivens precedent. The precedent, created in a 1971 case involving the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, created an implied cause of action for any person whose Fourth Amendment rights are violated by federal officials. On Monday, June 19 the Supreme Court refused to extend the Bivens precedent to the petitioners, reversing the decision by the Second Circuit and remanding the case.

David Rivkin of Baker Hostelter joined us to discuss the opinion and its significance.


  • David B. Rivkin Jr., Partner, Baker & Hostetler LLP 

Courthouse Steps: Hernandez v. Mesa Decided - Podcast

International & National Security Law Practice Group Podcast
Steven Giaier June 29, 2017

On Monday, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded Hernandez v. Mesa to the Fifth Circuit. The case involved a cross-border shooting and a Bivens claim.

In July of 2010, a 15-year-old adolescent named Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca and his friends were playing along a concrete structure on the border of the U.S. and Mexico. When Jesus Mesa, Jr., a U.S. Border Patrol Agent arrived, he detained one of the youths on the border, and shot and killed Hernandez, who was hiding behind a pillar of the Paso Del Norte Bridge on the Mexican side of the border. Hernandez’s parents sued Agent Mesa under the Fourth and Fifth Amendment for the use of unlawful and disproportionate force. Agent Mesa argued that the Fourth and Fifth Amendments did not apply because Hernandez was not a U.S. citizen.

The District Court found for Agent Mesa, while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the Fifth Amendment protections against deadly force applied but the Fourth Amendment did not, and that Agent Mesa should not receive qualified immunity.

Steve Giaier of the House Committee on Homeland Security joined us to discuss the Court’s decision to vacate and remand and what it means for the case going forward.


  • Steven Giaier, Senior Counsel, House Committee on Homeland Security