SCOTUSBlog: Argument analysis: “Contempt of cop” — Justices search for compromise standard for First Amendment retaliatory arrests by Howard M. Wasserman:
In Monday’s argument in Nieves v. Bartlett, the justices pushed all sides for a compromise approach to handle the broad range of cases that might qualify as First Amendment retaliatory arrests, an approach that would neither allow all claims nor defeat all claims.
The case arises from the arrest of respondent Russell Bartlett at Alaska’s Arctic Man Festival, which Chief Justice John Roberts described as “10,000 mostly drunk people in the middle of nowhere” patrolled by eight police officers. In a civil damages action, Bartlett alleged that petitioners Luis Nieves and Bryce Weight, two Alaska state troopers, arrested him because he refused to talk with Nieves (who wanted him to move a keg indoors) and because he told Weight not to talk with a teenager outside the presence of the youth’s parents. The troopers responded that Bartlett’s retaliatory-arrest claim should fail because they had probable cause for the arrest. The district court granted summary judgment to the troopers on the First Amendment retaliation claim, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed.