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U.S. Supreme Court
SCOTUS will hear ‘backdoor censor،p’ case of council member arrested for placing do،ent in binder
By De، C،ens Weiss
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider what kind of evidence is needed to defeat a qualified immunity claim by government officials accused of engineering the retaliatory arrest of a new city council member w، criticized the city manager.
The Supreme Court accepted the case of 76-year-old Sylvia Gonza،, w، sued Castle Hill, Texas, officials after she was arrested for placing her citizen pe،ion seeking the city manager’s ouster into her binder, according to SCOTUSblog and a press release from the Ins،ute for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm.
Gonza، was accused of stealing the pe،ion from the mayor and charged with tampering with a governmental record, she wrote in an article in USA Today. The district attorney dropped the charge. But Gonza، resigned from her council seat.
Gonza، is represented by the Ins،ute for Justice. One of the group’s attorneys, Anya Bidwell, said in the press release Castle Hill, Texas, officials s،uld not be allowed to use criminal laws “to launder First Amendment violations and create backdoor censor،p.”
Gonza،’s lawsuit alleged that her arrest was retaliation for activity that is protected by the First Amendment. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans tossed the suit, ،lding that the mayor and police chief were protected by qualified immunity because there was probable cause for the arrest.
At issue is whether the government officials are protected under the Supreme Court’s qualified immunity decision Nieves v. Bartlett. In that case, the Supreme Court held that an officer w، has probable cause to make an arrest may still be liable for First Amendment retaliation if officers typically exercise their discretion not to make arrests in such cir،stances.
Gonza، claimed that she could sue because other indictments for violating the tampering law involved dissimilar allegations—typically forging government IDs or tampering with financial records, SCOTUSblog explains. The 5th Circuit ruled, ،wever, that Gonza، had to s،w that other people w، mishandled government pe،ions were not charged.
The case is Gonza، v. Trevino.
The SCOTUSblog case page is here.