10 Attorneys General file amicus brief in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach
Attorney General Curtis Hill announced today that he is part of a coalition of 10 states that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case that could make it more difficult for police to do their jobs.
The brief comes in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, a Florida case regarding an individual who was arrested during a town council meeting and charged with disorderly conduct. Although there was probable cause for the arrest, the arrestee sued, claiming that city officials had conspired to arrest him in retaliation for his outspoken opposition to them. The Court must decide whether a plaintiff may sue police officers for retaliatory arrest if the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff.
“As Hoosiers and Americans, we all depend on police officers to protect our families by patrolling our streets and removing dangerous criminals from our neighborhoods,” Attorney General Hill said. “Officers who lawfully follow proper procedures should never have to live in fear of being sued by suspects. They should never feel discouraged from making arrests in situations in which they have probable cause for doing so.”
The states’ brief argues that a decision granting the arrestee’s recommended rule would inhibit effective policing through a flood of litigation that would discourage arrests even when based on probable cause and when necessary to protect the public safety.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine led the brief’s drafting.
“Police officers must be able to make quick decisions in dangerous situations, and they should be able to feel confident about their actions to protect the public when those actions have a lawful basis,” Attorney General Racine said.
Acknowledging the importance of the First Amendment interests at stake, the brief also argues that the states and the District already have effective administrative and disciplinary procedures in place, including civilian complaint review boards, to address misconduct by officers and to protect those interests.
“The threat of such suits would not only make officers’ already difficult and dangerous jobs even more so, but also hinder law enforcement agencies from taking custody of offenders and implementing effective community policing,” the brief says.
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for February 27. In addition to Attorney General Hill and Attorney General Racine, attorneys general from Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming joined the brief.