Supreme Courtroom questions whether or not an injured Louisiana police officer can sue a black life activist
In a separate decision, the judges ordered a lower court to consider whether the officer’s lawsuit was legal under Louisiana law.
On Monday, the US Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Louisiana police officer against Black Lives Matter activist and organizer DeRay Mckesson.
According to NBC News, the lawsuit focuses on a 2016 protest in response to the fatal police shots at Alton Sterling. During a demonstration, a rioter threw an object at the plaintiff and slapped him in the face, causing serious injuries including brain trauma.
Although the attacker was never identified, the injured officer chose to sue Mckesson, saying the activist somehow negligently organized the protest.
Mckesson had previously argued that allowing lawsuits against activists could result in repression of freedom of expression as people may be reluctant to participate in demonstrations “for fear that they will be held responsible if something happens”.
The attorney reports that Mckesson’s legal team cited the landmark 1982 unanimous decision of the Supreme Court in NAACP against Claiborne Hardware Co., a civil lawsuit in which a Mississippi-based company attempted the NAACP for “damage” to its business held liable by local protests and boycotts that resulted in very limited violence.
The US Supreme Court joined the NAACP and stated that any group’s efforts to initiate or support peaceful protests are constitutionally protected.
NBC News notes that a federal district court was quick to dismiss the officer’s lawsuit. The panel believes that the protests against Black Lives Matter are so loosely organized that no single person can be held as a leader.
The same panel also blocked the lawsuit on the grounds that it was incompatible with the first change.
Image via Wikimedia Commons. No author named. (CCA-BY-3.0)
However, the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals overturned the decision, saying the protest Mckesson helped organize took place on a freeway near the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters, ensuring that some sort of confrontation with law enforcement would be inevitable .
But on Monday the State Supreme Court gave Mckesson temporary redress.
In a 7: 1 ruling – with dissenting Judge Clarence Thomas refusing to give an alternative opinion – the judges referred the matter back to the lower courts and recommended that they examine whether Louisiana law would even allow this type of litigation allows.
“The Fifth Circuit should not have ventured into such an insecure area of tort law – an area fraught with value judgment and impact on First Amendment rights – without first consulting the Louisiana Supreme Court with guidance on potential scrutiny of the law from Louisiana, “wrote the majority.
While some media outlets, such as Axios, described the unsigned judgment as a “temporary gain” for Mckesson, Donna Grodner – the anonymous John Doe litigator’s attorney – said the judges were merely trying to dispel possible uncertainties about the law.
“The decision means that the 5th Circuit got it right,” said Grodner.
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