Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Supreme Court rules for ex-council member in Texas arrested after criticizing city official

By 37ci3 Jun21,2024

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court A Texas woman who served on a small town council and was arrested Thursday after criticizing a high-ranking official rekindled her civil rights lawsuit.

The 8-1 ruling gives Sylvia Gonzalez another chance to file a retaliation claim, sending the case back to a lower court for further review.

“No one should have to go through what I went through, and with this decision, I’m sure it won’t happen again,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

Case In 2019, the scope was focused on the Supreme Court’s decision in Nieves v. Bartlett, which held that plaintiffs generally cannot bring retaliation claims when police make lawful arrests.

Gonzalez, then 72, was arrested in 2019 shortly after taking office as a councilman in Castle Hills, Texas. He participated in the elections as a critic of the city manager.

Gonzalez was accused of improperly removing a government document that he had prepared, identified as a civil petition.

He said that he did not intend to take the document that was mixed with his other documents.

The charges were eventually dropped, but only after Gonzalez, who had no criminal record, spent a day in jail. He also resigned from elected office.

Gonzalez said the arrest was in retaliation for voicing grievances against City Manager Ryan Rapelieu. 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 case was Gonzalez’s effort to overcome a procedural bar to proceeding with his lawsuit.

Gonzalez’s attorneys at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal group, said she should be able to bring her case based on the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Nieves v. Bartlett.

The ruling says that in most cases, when the police have probable cause for the arrests, plaintiffs cannot bring retaliation claims.

But the court added that cases can move forward in limited circumstances if plaintiffs can show that other people in a similar situation were not arrested even if there was probable cause.

In an unsigned ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court faulted the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for how it analyzed Gonzalez’s ability to make his case.

According to the Supreme Court’s decision, the lower court concluded that he had to provide a “very specific comparator” to show that others had committed the same conduct but were not arrested.

Evidence that Gonzalez presented “that no one has been arrested for a particular type of conduct” may be sufficient to allow his case to move forward, the ruling said.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter, and Gonzalez’s concession that the police had probable cause to arrest him should mean his case cannot proceed.

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By 37ci3

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