The Department of Justice would have jurisdiction over any case where a federal employee serving outside the U.S. is threatened, harmed or killed, under new legislation that passed the House Oct. 27.
The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act — named for two Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers attacked in Mexico in 2011 whose cases were dropped due to questions of jurisdiction — enables the U.S. to pursue criminal cases that occur outside normal government jurisdiction when a federal employee is involved.
The law addresses the split judicial opinions on jurisdiction concerning federal employees abroad, as the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Ninth Circuit and Eleventh Circuit have all ruled the U.S. does have such jurisdiction, whereas the panel in the Zapata and Avila case determined there was no such authority.
The bipartisan bill was co-authored by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, whose national president, Larry Cosme, described it as being of “critical importance” for protecting federal officers.
In a statement, National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon praised the legislation, arguing it’s “essential that the federal government do everything in its power to protect the people who protect us all, whether at home or abroad.”
The bill passed by voice vote in the House, after the Senate gave it unanimous approval in May, leaving only the president’s signature before it becomes law.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.