Moreno v. United States Customs and Border Protection Officer Mario Unate

Moreno v. United States Customs and Border Protection Officer Mario Unate and the United States of America., No. 3:14-CV-04266-B (N.D. Tex., filed Dec. 3, 2014)

On December 2, 2012 around 5pm, Jorge Moreno Villegas, who is Hispanic, was driving a pick-up truck on a highway outside of Ozona, Texas with a Hispanic colleague as a passenger.  The men were on their way home from work.  Passing in the opposite direction, a Border Patrol agent saw the two men and, turning his vehicle around, squeezed it in between Mr. Moreno’s truck and the vehicle behind it. It is undisputed that Mr. Moreno had not committed any driving violations.  The agent stopped Mr. Moreno and began questioning him and his passenger about their immigration status and citizenship.  The men declined to respond.  The agent then began questioning them in Spanish and ordered Mr. Moreno to exit the truck.  The agent proceeded to handcuff Mr. Moreno and place him in the back of his vehicle.  He did the same for the passenger.

On December 3, 2014, Mr. Moreno filed a complaint against the agent.  He alleges that the agent stopped him without consent or legal authority and was motivated solely by his Hispanic appearance and that of his passenger.  Mr. Moreno brings a claim against the agent for violating the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and an FTCA claim against the United States for false imprisonment and assault.

On February 12, 2015, Defendants moved to dismiss Mr. Moreno’s FTCA claim for false imprisonment on the basis that he had failed to plead facts regarding his immigration status, and that the arrest would have been lawful if he had told the agent that he was not legally present in the United States. Finding that the Border Patrol agent had pulled Mr. Moreno over solely based on his Hispanic appearance, the Court concluded that he lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the stop and thus denied Defendants’ motion.

In late November 2015, the parties filed a joint motion for a stay pending decision on a forthcoming petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in De la Paz v. Coy et al., which was filed in January 2016 (No. 15-888). On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari in De la Paz. Following the parties’ subsequent stipulation of dismissal, the district court dismissed the case on January 4, 2018.

Counsel: De Mott, McChesney, Curtright & Armendáriz, LLP

Contact: David Armendáriz | 210.534.1844 |