Blurred Lines…


“With more than 60,000 employees, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP, is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade.” 


This week we will be discussing a case that is quite relevant to the current political climate in our country. The case of Hernandez v. Mesa is number seven on the list of top ten Supreme Court cases to follow this year. A tragic case, Hernandez v. Mesa focuses on the topic of border patrol along the U.S. Mexican border and which laws apply within this border region.

The details of the case follow as, that on June 7th 2010, Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, who was fifteen at the time, was playing with friends along the U.S. Mexican border near El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. The kids were playing a game where they would dare each other to run up to the fence, starting on the Mexican side, touch the fence, and then run back down. The following set of details are still argued on their validity, but what is understood is that one of Hernandez friends was apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol and the remaining children began to flee back to the Mexican side of the border area. The border officer, Mesa, then fired two shots in the direction of Hernandez and one struck and killed him. Following Hernandez’s death, his parents sued Mesa in Federal District court in Texas, claiming that Mesa had violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the constitution, specifically in reference to the use of deadly force and the inability to determine necessary force. Mesa stated that the case should be dismissed because Hernandez had been on U.S. soil illegally and had been shot while standing on Mexican soil, thus the claims of violating the Fourth and Fifth Amendments are void. The court held that Mesa was entitled to immunity in this case and that the Hernandez family could not sue based on the fact that their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights had been violated, since they are not U.S. Citizens.

The formal questions posed by this case are:

  • Does a formalist or functionalist analysis govern the extraterritorial application of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unjustified deadly force, as applied to a cross-border shooting of an unarmed Mexican citizen in an enclosed area controlled by the United States?
  • May qualified immunity be granted or denied based on facts – such as the victim’s legal status – unknown to the officer at the time of the incident?
  • Can the claim in this case be properly asserted under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, which governs when federal agents may be liable for damages for violating an individual’s constitutional right?

This cases poses plenty of thought provoking questions: Should U.S. law apply to everyone, or at least to people who come into contact with American citizens? Should there be a set of laws, not country specific, that are applied to border regions?



Argument preview: Justices take on issues arising out of cross-border shooting


“Get off my lawn!”

”Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”

Fifth Amendment 

This week in court we will be discussing the case Murr v. Wisconsin, which was granted to be heard by the Supreme Court in January 2016; the case is still pending. This case specifically revolves around the idea of personal property; I know it may not be the most interesting topic, but bear with me.  

In 1960 in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, the parents of Joseph P. Murr bought two adjacent lots of land that totaled to about .98 acres. In the mid 90s the parents transferred the land to their children, and in 1995 the two lots were combined to create one large lot. In St. Croix County there is an ordinance that prohibits the individual development or sale of adjacent lots, if they are owned by the same person, unless when totaled they occupy a space greater than one acre, but the land owned by the Murrs did not. To clarify, a lot must be at least one acre to be sold or if multiple acres are combined together they must collectively equal one acre in order to be sold separately. Years later the Murr family wished to sell only one lot that they owned, but were denied by the St. Croix County Board of Adjustment. The Murr family sued the state and county stating that the ordinance results in an unjust and uncompensated seizure of their property and deprived them of “all, or practically all, of the use of Lot E because the lot cannot be sold or developed as a separate lot.” All local and state courts held that the Murrs had not been deprived of the use of their property.

This case, although a little drier than others at its surface, touches on a very foundational right: the right to own property and to choose what one does with it. This case poses the question of, can local and state governments regulate personal property, and in such a way that the owners cannot decide themselves how to sell or develop their land? Who has the final say on property and its regulation: those that own it or some form of government? For without some form of regulation, would not the ownership of property become chaotic?