This case requires the Court to address the intersection of principles that define when arrests are lawful and principles that prohibit the government from retaliating against a person for having exercised the right to free speech. An arrest deprives a person of essential liberties, but if there is probable cause to believe the person has committed a criminal offense there is often no recourse for the deprivation. See, e.g., Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U. S. 146, 153 (2004). At the same time, the First Amendment prohibits government officials from retaliating against individuals for engaging in protected speech. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U. S. 574, 592 (1998).And then the intro to the analysis:
The petitioner in this case alleges that high-level city policymakers adopted a plan to retaliate against him for protected speech and then ordered his arrest when he attempted to make remarks during the public-comment portion of a city council meeting. The petitioner now concedes there was probable cause for the arrest. The question is whether the presence of probable cause bars petitioner’s retaliatory arrest claim under these circumstances.
The issue before the Court is a narrow one. In this Court Lozman does not challenge the constitutionality of Florida’s statute criminalizing disturbances at public assemblies. He does not argue that the statute is overly broad, e.g., Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U. S. 1 (1949); Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc. of N. Y., Inc. v. Village of Stratton, 536 U. S. 150 (2002); or that it impermissibly targets speech based on its content or viewpoint, e.g., Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397 (1989); Cohen v. California, 403 U. S. 15 (1971); or that it was enforced in a way that curtailed Lozman’s right to peaceful assembly, e.g., Brown v. Louisiana, 383 U. S. 131 (1966). Lozman, furthermore, does not challenge the validity of the City Council’s asserted limitations on the subjects speakers may discuss during the public-comment portion of city council meetings (although he continues to dispute whether those limitations in fact existed). Instead Lozman challenges only the lawfulness of his arrest, and even that challenge is a limited one. There is no contention that the City ordered Lozman’s arrest to discriminate against him based on protected classifications, or that the City denied Lozman his equal protection rights by placing him in a “class of one.” See Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U. S. 562 (2000) (per curiam).Lozman, moreover, now concedes that there was probable cause for the arrest. Although Lozman does not indicate what facts he believes support this concession, it appears that the existence of probable cause must be based on the assumption that Lozman failed to depart the podium after receiving a lawful order to leave.
Lozman’s claim is that, notwithstanding the presence of probable cause, his arrest at the city council meeting violated the First Amendment because the arrest was ordered in retaliation for his earlier, protected speech: his open-meetings lawsuit and his prior public criticisms of city officials. The question this Court is asked to consider is whether the existence of probable cause bars that First Amendment retaliation claim.
The Court says no and reverses the 11th.
The Court also has a couple of sentencing decisions, one in favor of the defendant and one if favor of the government. Check SCOTUSBlog for details. (Still no Carpenter)