On March 21 at 11 AM ET the Supreme Court of the United States will hear the oral arguments in Reichle et al v. Howards, a case brought to review because of a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The decision allowed First Amendment retaliatory arrest claims to proceed against two Secret Service agents. This lawsuit arises out of the decision by the agents to arrest Steven Howards after he lied to them about touching Vice President Richard Cheney in Beaver Creek, Colorado in 2006. The agents, Virgil “Gus” Reichle and Daniel Doyle, have asked the Supreme Court to reverse the decision by the Tenth Circuit that allowed the lawsuit seeking personal money damages to proceed despite the fact that the agents had probable cause to arrest Howards for making a false statement to a federal officer.
Following the oral arguments at roughly 12:10 ET Sean R. Gallagher, the attorney representing Reichle and Doyle, and a partner at Polsinelli Shughart PC, will be available for comment to the media, as well as on-camera and one-on-one interviews. To arrange an on-camera or one-on-one interview with Mr. Gallagher please contact Matt Yemma (contact info below).
UPDATE - Hear audio from Sean Gallager presenting oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States, click here
On March 14, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that four of the Secret Service agents sued in the case were immune from the lawsuit to the extent that they were alleged to have violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits arrests without probable cause. But, the panel declined to dismiss claims under the First Amendment, holding that law enforcement immunity does not automatically extend to claims alleging retaliation against free speech.
In reaching this decision, the court adopted a position that has been rejected by the majority of the other appellate courts that have addressed the issue, and sided with the minority view adopted by only one other circuit, the West coast based Ninth Circuit. If left to stand, the agents believe that the lower court's decision will have broad ranging implications for law enforcement in the United States. This rule would allow people who are arrested to sue the arresting officer by simply claiming that the actual reason for the arrest was retaliation for a political statement that he or she made.
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