When immigration detainee Francisco Castaneda died of penile cancer in 2008 after what appeared to be intentional neglect by federal health officials, his family members became plaintiffs in a lawsuit that Castaneda had filed against the United States and several federal Public Health Service (PHS) officers and employees. The suit alleged medical negligence by the United States and constitutional violations by the PHS officials. The PHS officials claimed immunity from suit, and the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that the family could not sue the federal officials directly and that the only available remedy was through a suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act. That decision has caused some to doubt the viability of so-called Bivens actions, which allow plaintiffs to seek redress against federal officials for constitutional violations. However, this Article, authored by the Castaneda family's counsel-of-record and two of their co-counsel, asserts that such doubt is unfounded because the Court anchored its holding not to its Bivens jurisprudence but to its interpretation of §233(a) of the Public Health Service Act, which immunizes PHS officials from all civil actions. This Article argues that granting PHS personnel special immunity from Bivens actions makes little sense and that Congress should correct the incongruity exposed in Castaneda's case-that PHS physicians enjoy greater protection in suits alleging constitutional violations than do the other federal medical employees with whom they work side by side.
Adele Kimmel, Arthur Bryant & Amy Radon,
Hui v. Castaneda: Beyond Cruel and Unusual,
44 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 297
Available at: http://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/llr/vol44/iss1/12