Judge Allows Lawsuits Against FBI To Advance

Safety deposit box
Safety deposit box | Image by Eekhoff Picture Lab/Getty Images

A federal judge is allowing two lawsuits filed against the FBI over warrantless searches of safe deposit boxes to proceed.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department allegedly misled a federal judge in order to execute a search at U.S. Private Vaults in Beverly Hills, California, in 2021. During the raid, more than 1,400 safety deposit boxes belonging to nearly 400 customers were searched. The FBI discovered and confiscated over $86 million in cash and millions more in other valuables.

Victims of the potentially unlawful search filed suit in response, with some claiming that federal authorities have failed to return their property.

“We are happy to be able to move forward into discovery and to be able to basically have the government answer for what happened for the property that went missing,” said Joseph Gay, an Institute for Justice lawyer, the non-profit organization representing some of the lawsuits’ plaintiffs, per The Intercept.

Judge Robert Klausner of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the defendants’ motions to dismiss, calling the proceedings “yet another chapter in the long legal saga of the FBI’s criminal investigation of U.S. Private Vaults.”

A previous federal appeals court judge called a related case stemming from the purportedly unlawful search and seizures “egregious” and “outrageous,” according to The Intercept.

“The first case shows the government never should have opened the safe deposit boxes to begin with,” said Gay. “This case shows that, once they did, they had an obligation to keep the property safe.”

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have been accused of overreaching and invading the privacy of U.S. citizens. For example, while investigating the U.S. Capitol protests of January 6, 2021, the FBI cast a purportedly overly broad dragnet to target individuals whose phone data placed them near the building that day, regardless of whether their behavior was peaceful.

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