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Supreme Court Grants Cert in Case of Man Arrested for Confrontation with Cheney

Posted Dec 5, 2011 11:13 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Secret Service agents who arrested an environmental consultant at a Dick Cheney appearance have immunity from suit.

The arrested man, Steven Howards of Golden, Colo., wants to sue the agents for a violation of his free speech rights, the Associated Press reports.

Howards confronted Cheney at a Beaver Creek, Colo., shopping center in 2006, telling the vice president that his Iraq policies are “disgusting” and touching his right shoulder. Howard at first refused to talk to a Secret Service agent about the incident, then denied he had touched Cheney, according to court papers cited by AP.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled Howards’ denial gave the agents probable cause for arrest, but Howards could pursue his suit for a First Amendment violation nonetheless.

The U.S. Supreme Court has previously barred suits for retaliatory prosecutions when there is probable cause to bring criminal charges, the story says. At issue is whether the ban applies to retaliatory arrests justified by probable cause.

The secret service agents are represented by Sean Gallagher of Polsinelli Shughart. In a press release, he said he was glad the Supreme Court accepted the case. The rule adopted by the 10th Circuit "exposes Secret Service agents to the risk of lawsuits each time they confront a potential threat to the president or vice president," he said.

How Appealing also notes coverage of the cert grant by SCOTUSblog. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, Reichle v. Howards.

Updated at 1:10 p.m. to include statement by Sean Gallagher.

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