Oral argument: Mar. 21, 2012
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Mar. 14, 2011)
Respondent Steven Howards criticized and touched Vice President Cheney while the Vice President was on a meet-and-greet at a local shopping center. Petitioners Virgil Reichle and Dan Doyle, two Secret Service Agents, confronted Howards, and subsequently arrested him for assault. However, the state prosecutor dropped the charges against Howards, who then brought a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim against the Agents. The district court denied the Agents’ motion for summary judgment, ruling that the Agents could not benefit from qualified immunity under the circumstances. The Tenth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court must now resolve whether one may raise a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim when there was probable cause for one’s arrest. A decision for Howards may deter law enforcement officers from making arrests for fear of retaliatory arrest claims, while a decision for the Agents may enable officers to more easily target and punish speech which they oppose.