Holding: The petitioners – two Secret Service agents -- are entitled to qualified immunity from suit involving a claim that they arrested the respondent in retaliation for remarks he had made about then-Vice President Cheney because, at the time of the arrest, it was not clearly established that an arrest supported by probable cause could give rise to a First Amendment violation.
Plain English Summary: Police officers (and federal agents, too) cannot be sued for violating someone’s rights, if the right that was supposedly violated was not formally recognized to exist at the time the officers acted. If the Court finds that no such right existed at that time (whether or not it might be recognized later), then the claim cannot go to court in a trial. In this case, the private individual who approached Vice President Cheney in 2006 claimed that he could not be arrested for anti-war remarks he made to Cheney. The Court, without deciding whether the man would now have a right to make those remarks without being arrested, found that he would not have a clear right to do so as of 2006. That was enough to reject Howards’ lawsuit.
Merits Briefs for the Petitioners
Amicus Briefs in Support of the Petitioners
Merits Briefs for the Respondent
Amicus Briefs in Support of the Respondent
Amicus Briefs in Support of Neither Party