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Ganek v. Leibowitz and a Proposal to Reform Search Warrant Procedure

The Second Circuit recently reversed a district court’s determination that federal prosecutors and agents were not entitled to qualified immunity from plaintiffs’ Bivens claims for money damages for violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in procuring and executing a search warrant.

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In Ganek v. Leibowitz, No. 16-1463, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 20226 (2d Cir. Oct. 17, 2017), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently reversed a district court’s determination that federal prosecutors and agents were not entitled to qualified immunity from plaintiffs’ Bivens claims for money damages for violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in procuring and executing a search warrant. The court followed the relevant precedent in the area of qualified immunity in reaching its decision; civil litigation against prosecutors and agents who have made an error in the course of their work ordinarily is not permitted. But the underlying facts of Ganek raise the question of whether it would be appropriate to reform the use of search warrants, especially in cases where the warrants seek evidence and not contraband. Modest revisions to the procedural rules governing search warrants could prevent unintended harm from being visited upon innocent third parties.

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