Bressi v. Napier

Bressi v. Napier, No. 4:18-cv-00186 (D. Ariz., amended complaint filed July 2, 2018) and No. 22-15123 (9th Cir., filed Jan. 27, 2022)

On July 2, 2018, Plaintiff Terry Bressi filed an amended complaint against Pima County Sheriff, Mark Napier, and other county defendants alleging that they violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights when Sheriff’s deputies arrested him at a Border Patrol checkpoint in April 2017 after refusing to answer Border Patrol’s citizenship questions. Bressi has also lodged a federal notice of claim against the Border Patrol based on the same incident.

Bressi, who has traveled the same route since 1993 from his Tucson home to his rural worksite west of Tucson, has contended many times with the abuses and excesses of the Border Patrol. For example, Mr. Bressi previously sued another local police agency when a deputy illegally detained him at a Border Patrol checkpoint. See Bressi v. Ford, 575 F.3d 891, 894 (9th Cir. 2009).

On April 10, 2017, Bressi was returning home from work when he passed through the Border Patrol checkpoint. Consistent with his personal opposition to the existence of interior checkpoints, Bressi refused to answer the Border Patrol’s questions. Shortly after, a Pima County Sheriff’s deputy – who was stationed at the checkpoint under a federal grant program called Operation Stonegarden – took over the interaction with Bressi and insisted that he answer the Border Patrol’s questions. Eventually, the deputy arrested Bressi and placed him in handcuffs, purportedly because Bressi had “obstructed” the highway.

This lawsuit alleges that the deputy retaliated against Bressi for exercising his First Amendment right not to answer Border Patrol’s questions. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the pervasive presence of local law enforcement at the Border Patrol checkpoint materially altered the nature of the checkpoint itself, rendering the whole checkpoint unconstitutional under the long-standing Fourth Amendment principle that permanent checkpoints are permitted only for limited immigration-related purposes and not for the “general interest in crime control.” The federal defendants answered the complaint on October 2, 2019. The Pima County defendants moved to dismiss the case.

On April 17, 2020, the court granted the motion to dismiss in part. Although the court dismissed Bressi’s claim that defendants improperly retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment right not to speak during an immigration stop, Bressi’s Fourth Amendment claims regarding the constitutionality of the checkpoint and his arrest survived.

Discovery continued through June 2021. On June 10, 2021, Plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claim that the checkpoint violates the Fourth Amendment and on June 17, 2021, Defendants filed a cross motion for summary judgment. On January 10, 2022, the district court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and denied Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment. Judgment was entered in favor of Defendants. Plaintiff has filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit.  On February 24, 2023, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, finding the evidence showed that the checkpoint was a permissible exercise of immigration enforcement authority and that Bressi’s arrest was supported by probable cause.


Counsel: Ralph E. Ellinwood PLLC

Contact: Ralph E. Ellinwood | Ralph E Ellinwood Attorney at Law PLLC |