Nieves v. Bartlett

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: May 28, 2019
  • Case #: 17-1174
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BREYER, ALITO, KAGAN, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined, and in which THOMAS, J., joined except as to Part II–D. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. GORSUCH, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

The existence of probable cause, examined under an objective standard, generally precludes retaliatory arrest claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Respondent was arrested by Petitioners for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Respondent claims that Petitioners committed a “retaliatory arrest,” stating that he was arrested for refusing to speak to Petitioners. Respondent brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in district court, which granted summary judgment for Petitioners, holding that probable cause precludes a claim for retaliatory arrest. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that retaliatory arrest claims can succeed notwithstanding the existence of probable cause and that courts should examine Petitioners’ subjective states of mind to determine if the protected speech was a “but-for” cause of the arrest. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Respondent’s claim cannot survive summary judgment with the existence of probable cause and that Petitioners’ states of mind were irrelevant. The Court reasoned that the rule for retaliatory prosecutions should apply to claims for retaliatory arrests, whereby “plaintiffs plead and prove the absence of probable cause for the underlying criminal charge.” Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 265-266 (2006). Furthermore, the Court reasoned that precedent “almost uniformly reject[s] invitations to probe subjective intent” in Fourth Amendment contexts. Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S.731, 737 (2011). Therefore, because Petitioners had probable cause, Respondent’s retaliatory arrest claim fails as a matter of law. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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