Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Ex-council member’s claim of retaliatory arrest for criticizing local officials reaches Supreme Court

By 37ci3 Mar20,2024

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday weighed whether a Texas woman who worked for a small city council could file a retaliation claim after she was arrested after criticizing a high-ranking official.

Silvia Gonzalez, then 72, was arrested in 2019 after running as a critic of the city manager after taking office as a council member in Castle Hills, Texas.

He was accused of improperly producing a state document known as a citizen’s application.

Gonzalez said he accidentally mixed up the petition with other documents.

The charges were eventually dropped, but only after Gonzalez, who had no crime, spent a day in jail. He also resigned from the City Council.

Gonzalez later sued, saying the arrest was a form of retaliation against him for voicing his grievances against City Manager Ryan Rapelier. He argued that the officers violated the First Amendment to the Constitution, which protects free speech rights.

Castle Hills Mayor Edward Trevino, then-Police Chief John Siemens and attorney Alex Wright, who was hired to assist in the investigation, were named as defendants.

At issue in the Supreme Court is Gonzalez’s effort to clear a procedural bar to proceed with his lawsuit. Under Supreme Court precedent, it is difficult for plaintiffs to bring a civil rights claim if the police had probable cause to make an arrest.

Gonzalez’s attorneys at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal group, say she should be able to file a lawsuit against Nieves Bartlett based on the 2019 Supreme Court ruling.

That ruling says that a case can go forward in limited circumstances if the plaintiff can show that other similarly situated people were not arrested, even if there was probable cause.

A federal judge denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the suit because they were protected under the statutory doctrine of qualified immunity, which holds that claims for damages against law enforcement or government officials must involve a violation of clearly defined rights. events. Gonzalez “does not have to allege or prove the absence of probable cause,” the judge said.

But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned that decision, saying Gonzalez’s lawsuit was barred by a probable cause issue.

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By 37ci3

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