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Justices to hear DEA agent’s appeal on personal jurisdiction

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether a Nevada court can exercise personal jurisdiction over a Georgia police officer whose sole “contact” with Nevada is his knowledge that the plaintiff has connections there.

The case involves a Bivens action brought by a Las Vegas couple against a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, alleging the agent violated their Fourth Amendment rights during a flight stopover in Atlanta when the couple was flying home from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The agent, Anthony Walden, was working with the DEA at the Atlanta airport in 2006. He seized $97,000 in cash from Gina Fiore and Keith Gipson. The couple said they had won the money at a San Juan casino.

They were stopped after drug dogs signaled at their bags. The agent, suspecting the couple to be involved in illegal drug activity, seized the cash. They said the agent subsequently prepared a false probable cause affidavit to have to money forfeited to the government.

A federal prosecutor ultimately concluded that the government lacked probable cause to seize the cash, and it was returned to the couple about seven months later.

The couple brought a Bivens action in a Nevada federal district court, but the court dismissed the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The conduct of the agent, the court held, was “expressly aimed” at Georgia and the only contact the agent had with Nevada was being told by the couple that they lived there.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. Acknowledging that the conduct was aimed at Georgia, a majority of the divided panel held that the “the false probable cause affidavit aspect of the case” supported jurisdiction in Nevada.

The Supreme Court granted the agent’s petition for certiorari, and the case will be heard and decided next term.

The case is Fiore v. Walden, No. 12-574.

Lawyers USA is a sister publication of The Daily Record.