During the course of an investigation, the Special Agent interviewed a witness scheduled to be deported as part of an unrelated immigration proceeding. The witness flirted with the Special Agent and asked him to intervene in her immigration case. When the Special Agent refused, the witness filed a police report, and later a civil lawsuit, falsely accusing him of harassment and sexual assault.
Under the Westfall Act, a government employee is immune from tort liability if the government certifies that he/she was acting within the scope of his/her employment. When the government refused certification, the Special Agent hired HANNON LAW GROUP to defend him. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California then ruled that he was acting within the scope of his employment and dismissed the claims against him.
The government filed an interlocutory appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Oral arguments were held on November 4, 2019, in Pasadena, California.
On November 30, 2019, the 9th Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. It found that the witness invited the Special Agent to her home to discuss the investigation and that he was involved in the investigation as part of his official duties as a federal employee. Therefore, the Court found that he acted within the scope of his employment and was immune from liability.