Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: June 18, 2018
  • Case #: 17-21
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and GINSBURG, BREYER, ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

Existence of probable cause for an arrest does not bar a claim under 42 USC § 1983 where an official policy of retaliation against the exercise of free speech is alleged.

Petitioner, an individual, filed suit against Respondent city officials under 42 USC §1983 claiming that Respondents arranged what Petitioner alleged was a “retaliatory arrest” violating Petitioner’s First Amendment rights following Petitioner’s critical public comments about Respondents. The District Court found for Respondents, holding that Petitioner failed to prove that the arresting officer lacked probable cause for the arrest. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision, holding that probable cause for an arrest should not preclude Petitioner’s claim. The Court reasoned that because Petitioner brought the claim against the Respondent for an “official policy” of retaliation against Petitioner’s exercise of free speech and not – as in previous retaliatory arrest cases – against an arresting officer for violation of the right to free speech, there is a “compelling need” for methods of redress. Under Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274 (1977), Petitioner is not required to prove the absence of probable cause in a claim against Respondent where the retaliation alleged bears “little relation to the criminal offense for which the arrest is made” and instead seeks to punish for previous exercise of First Amendment protected speech. The Court further stated that Petitioner’s claim does not affect prior decisions and precedent for traditional retaliatory arrest cases. VACATED AND REMANDED.  



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