Bansal v. Russ

Adyasha SahooCase Summary

Extent of immunity for US Attorneys in a case involving allegations for illegal search and seizure, unauthorised interception, and financial privacy rights

Bansal v. Russ
513 F.Supp.2d 264
In the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Civil Action 06-4264
Before Senior District Judge Katz
Decided on April 05, 2007

Relevancy of the Case: Extent of immunity for US Attorneys in a case involving allegations for illegal search and seizure, unauthorised interception, and financial privacy rights

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Stored Communication Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701, 2703
  • The Right to Financial Privacy Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 3401, 3403
  • The Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2515
  • The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030
  • The Pen Register Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3121
  • The Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • In 2005, the District Court indicted the plaintiff and sixteen co-defendants for an international conspiracy to distribute illegal prescription drugs across various countries, including India, the UK, and France.
  • The grand jury filed 31 charges against the plaintiff. These charges included conspiracy to distribute and import controlled substances, operating a criminal enterprise, introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, money laundering, aiding, and abetting.
  • After a trial lasting over five weeks, the plaintiff was convicted on these 31 counts. However, the court was yet to sentence him. He filed multiple motions to suppress evidence and dismiss the indictment, but the court denied all of them.
  • The plaintiff brought a civil action, a 38-count complaint, against the DEA, FBI, and IRS agents in their individual and official capacities. In this civil action, the defendants also included the Assistant US Attorneys for violating his constitutional and statutory rights.
  • The plaintiff claims that US Attorneys (AUSA) violated his rights under the abovementioned provisions. He also accused the defendants of violating his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments by presenting false information to the grand jury and committing common law torts.

Prominent Arguments by the Counsels

  • The plaintiff’s counsel argued that the AUSA defendants infringed upon his rights under the Right to Financial Privacy Act by acquiring his bank and credit card records without fulfilling the requirements. Their violations under other statutes include obtaining search warrants without probable cause, issuing out-of-jurisdiction warrants, and intercepting communications without proper authorisations. These violations are also breaches of his constitutional rights.
  • The defendant’s counsel contended that AUSA defendants have absolute prosecutorial immunity. As counsels for the government, their actions during a judicial proceeding have the protection of absolute immunity.

Opinion of the Bench

  • There is a clear distinction between administrative and investigative roles. Immunity can only be granted in selected cases. Further, there is recognition of absolute immunity for prosecutorial actions for presenting evidence to the grand jury. However, there is insufficient information to determine absolute immunity for illegal searches and wiretapping activities.
  • Purely evidence-gathering does not have complete protection. The court favoured rejecting the defendants’ claim, noting it relied on the plaintiff’s failure to provide evidence rather than addressing the alleged violations of established rights.
  • Federal officers who carry out a wiretap under federal laws are not subject to certain provisions of the state wiretapping laws.

Final Decision

  • The court dismissed over 12 counts against the defendants while rejecting the defendants’ motion to dismiss all counts.