The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that anyone wrongfully detained or prosecuted cannot pursue legal action against any TSA employee because they aren’t technically federal agents.
The case came from Nadine Pellegrino who, in 2006, sued TSA officers for alleged false imprisonment and malicious prosecution at the Philadelphia International Airport according to USA Today.
Pellegrino was dismissed because, according to the Federal Tort Claims Act, TSA agents don’t fall under the “investigative or law enforcement officers” category that can be prosecuted for such actions.
The Act also says “any officer of the United States who is empowered by law to execute searches, to seize evidence, or to make arrests for violations of Federal law,” is open to prosecution.
Judge Thomas Ambro argued in his dissenting opinion that the majority’s opinion that only “criminal law enforcement officers” are able to be prosecuted is incorrect because TSA agents do search and seize evidence of personal belongings all the time.
Justice Ambro also argued that this majority ruling “leaves several plaintiffs without a remedy, even if a TSO assaults them, wrongfully detains them, or fabricates criminal charges against them.”
“Even if we assume the definition is ambiguous, the result is the same. TSOs are liable under § 2680(h) because the Supreme Court has instructed us to interpret the Federal Tort Claims Act broadly in favor of waiving the Government’s immunity against suit,” wrote Ambro.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain thinks that this ruling was fair and prevented the abuse of taxpayer dollars by spending it defending those “who are not empowered by law with traditional law enforcement responsibilities.”