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Court Eyes Liability for Faulty Warrant


— November 4, 2003

Federal agents were looking for a rocket launcher and automatic weapons when they pulled up to a house on a rural Montana ranch, but the warrant they carried mentioned nothing about the suspected cache.

The omission was a mistake by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agent Jeff Groh, and it could cost him. Unless the Supreme Court says otherwise, Groh will face a lawsuit for damages for violating the constitutional rights of Joseph and Julia Ramirez, who lived on Moose Creek Ranch.

The weapons were listed in the affadavit that supported the warrant, but inadvertently left out of the warrant itself. The questioning from the Court indicated that most justices see this as a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. Although law enforcement officers are usually immune from suits over their acts while on duty, there is an exception when the officer violates an individual’s constitutional rights. Mr. Groh may be personally hosed here, over what was likely an administrative error. The AP reports on the hearing here.


Federal agents were looking for a rocket launcher and automatic weapons when they pulled up to a house on a rural Montana ranch, but the warrant they carried mentioned nothing about the suspected cache.

The omission was a mistake by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agent Jeff Groh, and it could cost him. Unless the Supreme Court says otherwise, Groh will face a lawsuit for damages for violating the constitutional rights of Joseph and Julia Ramirez, who lived on Moose Creek Ranch.

The weapons were listed in the affadavit that supported the warrant, but inadvertently left out of the warrant itself. The questioning from the Court indicated that most justices see this as a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. Although law enforcement officers are usually immune from suits over their acts while on duty, there is an exception when the officer violates an individual’s constitutional rights. Mr. Groh may be personally hosed here, over what was likely an administrative error. The AP reports on the hearing here.

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