U.S. Supreme Court Decision: Reichle v. Howards

By Jim Maisano

Last week, I highlighted the six interesting cases to be decided prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ending its session over the next month.  One of these decisions, Reichle v. Howards, was released this past Monday, June 4.

Upon a quick review of the media coverage, the decision is viewed as a narrow ruling.  The petitioners are two Secret Service agents on assignment protecting Vice President Cheney, and they arrested the respondent following an encounter with the Vice President relating to his objections to the war in Iraq.  Based on physical contact with the Vice President, the respondent was arrested. The respondent then brought a First Amendment claim for retaliatory arrest against the petitioners, and the main question presented was whether the agents had qualified and absolute immunity from said action.

On the excellent website http://www.scotusblog.com/, Lyle Denniston reviewed the decision and stated:

“Sparing two Secret Service agents the legal chore of defending themselves at a civil trial, the Supreme Court on Monday chose to leave unanswered the power of police or federal agents to arrest a political protester whose views the officers find objectionable.  Instead, the Court ruled only that these two agents were legally immune because they had no warning in 2006 that they might face a lawsuit if they retaliated by arresting an individual who approached then-Vice President Dick Cheney and complained about the war in Iraq.”

Here is the link to Denniston’s full review of the decision:  http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/06/opinion-recap-narrow-ruling-on-arrests/

The New York Times also did a detailed review of the case, which can be found at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/05/us/secret-service-agents-cant-be-sued-justices-rule.html?_r=2

I look forward to providing updates on the remaining five Supreme Court cases as they are released.

James Maisano, Esq.
(914) 636-1621

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