Today, the Supreme Court of the United States decided to review a decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that allowed claims brought under the First Amendment to proceed against two Secret Service agents. This lawsuit arises out of the decision by the agents to arrest Steven Howards following an encounter he had with Vice President Richard Cheney in Beaver Creek in 2006. The agents, Virgil “Gus” Reichle and Daniel Doyle, have asked the Supreme Court to reverse the decision by the Tenth Circuit that held that despite the fact that the agents had probable cause to arrest Howards for harassing Vice President Cheney, Howards may still sue the agents under the First Amendment for retaliatory arrest.
Reichle and Doyle’s lawyer, Sean R. Gallagher of Polsinelli Shughart, had the following statement: “We are glad that the Supreme Court has decided to review the lower court’s decision and hope that the Court decides to reverse the court of appeals. This rule exposes Secret Service agents to the risk of lawsuits each time they confront a potential threat to the President or Vice President. The lower court’s rule undermines the ability of Secret Service agents to react quickly and instinctively in the face of potential threats that could have national and historic consequences."
On March 14, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appels 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 to 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 untouched, the agents believe that the lower court's decision will have broad ranging implications for law enforcement across the Western 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.
Attorney Sean Gallagher is available for media interviews. Below is a list of contacts to reach Gallagher.
Sean R. Gallagher
For more information contact Public Relations Manager Heather McMichael at 816-395-0618 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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