Kim Millbrook, a federal inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA") for the alleged sexual assault and battery he suffered from three correctional officers at the prison. The important issue in the case is how to understand the sovereign immunity provisions of the FTCA, and when federal correctional officers can be sued for their tortious conduct. Millbrook contends that while the FTCA generally provides sovereign immunity to the Government for torts committed by their employees while at work, the FTCA waives sovereign immunity for specific intentional torts committed by law enforcement officers during the scope of the officers’ employment. The Third Circuit has limited this waiver of sovereign immunity to instances where the enforcement agent is executing a search, seizing evidence, or making an arrest for violations of federal law. The Supreme Court will resolve a circuit split over how narrowly the waiver of sovereign immunity should be read. How the Court decides this case will determine when a federal correctional officer can be sued for his tortious conduct, and has significant implications for the protection of vulnerable prisoners against assault and abuse.
Whether 28 U.S.C §§1346(b) and 2680(h) waive the sovereign immunity of the United States for the intentional torts of prison guards when they are acting within the scope of their employment but are not exercising authority to “execute searches, to seize evidence, or to make arrests for violations of federal law."
- Adam Liptak, New York Times, Time, Pen and Paper, and Now the Ear of the Supreme Court (Oct. 16, 2012).
- Deanne Katz, FindLaw, Supreme Court Grants Prisoner’s Longshot, Handwritten Petition (Oct. 22, 2012).