Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: November 13, 2017
  • Case #: 17-21
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the existence of probable cause defeats a First Amendment retaliatory-arrest claim as a matter of law.

Petitioner is staunchly critical of Riviera Beach’s efforts to redevelop the local waterfront, where Petitioner has a floating home. The city’s redevelopment efforts would include seizing the local waterfront homes utilizing eminent domain to revitalize the area with a new private developer. When the City attempted to hold an “eleventh-hour” meeting to finalize the private developer agreement, Petitioner instituted legal action sued the City alleging that it violated the Florida Sunshine law, which mandates reasonable public notice for official actions such as the finalization of development agreements. Later, when addressing the City at a public meeting, Petitioner was interrupted and subsequently arrested for “disorderly conduct” and “resisting arrest without violence.” Although Petitioner was not formally charged for these actions, he consequently brought a § 1983 action against the City. At trial, the Court instructed the jury to consider the arresting officer’s state of mind, rather than any potential “retaliatory motive” on behalf of the City. On Appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The Court noted that while Petitioner seems to have established a “sufficient causal nexus” between the City and the First Amendment violations, the jury instructions as phrased fell within the discretion of the trial court. In his petition to the Court, Petitioner argues that the proper framework is Mt. Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274 (1977), which holds that First Amendment protections defeat the probable cause standard for retaliatory arrest cases. 

 

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