Share

Supreme Court rules against Alaska man in free speech case

Share

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against an Alaska resident in a case that gives law enforcement officers significant protection from people who want to sue and claim they were arrested in retaliation for something they said or wrote.

In an opinion , the justices said that because the officers had probable cause to arrest Russell Bartlett, his lawsuit fails.

Bartlett was arrested in 2014 at Arctic Man, an annual, weeklong winter sports festival that draws thousands to the remote Hoodoo Mountains near Paxton, Alaska. In his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts described the festival as “an event known for both extreme sports and extreme alcohol consumption.”

“The mainstays are high-speed ski and snowmobile races, bonfires, and parties,” he wrote, adding that for that week the “campground briefly becomes one of the largest and most raucous cities in Alaska.”

Bartlett was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after exchanging words with two troopers investigating underage drinking during the event. Officers said they arrested Bartlett, who had been drinking, because he initiated a physical confrontation by standing close to one of the troopers and speaking in a loud voice.

Trending:
The Biden Administration's Attempt to Immediately Shut Down Texas Abortion Law Just Crashed and Burned

The charges against Bartlett were ultimately dismissed, but Bartlett sued claiming his arrest was retaliation for comments he made to the officers.

The court rejected Bartlett’s argument, ruling that when officers have probable cause for an arrest, the person who was arrested generally can’t sue and argue that their arrest was retaliation for something they said. Roberts wrote that if Bartlett’s arguments were to prevail “policing certain events like an unruly protest would pose overwhelming litigation risks.”

“Any inartful turn of phrase or perceived slight during a legitimate arrest could land an officer in years of litigation,” Roberts wrote.

The Alaska Department of Law, which represented the officers in the case, said in a statement that it was pleased with the decision, which will result in the lawsuit Bartlett brought against the troopers being dismissed.

The court did add one qualification to its ruling. The justices gave the example of a person who has been complaining about police conduct who is arrested for jaywalking, which rarely results in an arrest. The justices said in a case like that, if the person can prove that he was arrested when other jaywalkers had not been, he could move forward with a retaliatory arrest lawsuit.

One of Bartlett’s attorneys, Kerri Barsh, said she was disappointed with the outcome for her client. But she said she was pleased the court acknowledged there was at least a narrow category of cases where the fact that probable cause exists doesn’t close the door to lawsuits. “The facts mean a lot in these cases,” she said.

Bartlett had been supported by numerous First Amendment and media organizations, including The Associated Press. The case is Nieves v. Bartlett, 17-1174.

___

Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →



loading

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
Share
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




loading

Conversation