Brett Stuff
Judging the Judges
Term Year: 2018

Luis A. Nieves, et al., Petitioners v. Russell P. Bartlett

Summary Analysis

DATE: 2019-05-28
DOCKET: 17-1174
NAME: Luis A. Nieves, et al., Petitioners v. Russell P. Bartlett

   AUTHOR: Roberts
   JOINING: Thomas, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, Kavanaugh
   GOOD: Yes

OPINION: Concurring
   AUTHOR: Thomas
   JOINING: None
   GOOD: No

OPINION: Concurring
   AUTHOR: Gorsuch
   JOINING: None
   GOOD: Yes

OPINION: Concurring
   AUTHOR: Ginsburg
   JOINING: None
   GOOD: Yes

OPINION: Dissenting
   AUTHOR: Sotomayor
   JOINING: None
   GOOD: Yes

Case Commentary

The actions leading up to this case took place at Arctic Man. Is there absolutely anything else you need to know? I mean, outside of what exactly the Arctic Man Festival is all about.

Um, as I read things, the Arctic Man is an endurance contest, in which many of the participants and/or observers consume mass quantities of alcohol.

Arctic Man:
'... an event known for extreme sports and extreme alcohol consumption.'

At the event:
More concisely, it would appear (to me) that Mr. Bartlett was drunk, acted that way (i.e. as if inebriated), talked loudly, got in a Police Officer's face, and was eventually arrested.

Mr. Bartlett sued for False Arrest (or something similar, not being a lawyer and knowing J-S -- i.e. nothing -- about the law, I could care less whether I am quoting the correct term). And five years later, the case has made it's way to The Supreme Court.

I'd say that's pretty good publicity for a Second Tier Sporting Event that I had never heard of before.

Note to Self
Give Arctic Man a Pass. It doesn't seem like your scene.

The Court (as in, The Supreme Court) gave Summary Judgement to the Police Officers. And based on what I read (just The Supreme Court slip, but none of the underlying documentation), I believe the Police Officers are innocent. No harm. No foul.

I believe Sotomayor Dissented as she would rather have a Jury decide the issue (rather than closing that avenue off by Summary Judgement) and doesn't like the structure of The Court's ruling.

But I am not as concerned as she is.

Perhaps, this is an indication of my Legal Naivete and utter lack of understanding of the nuances of the case, seeing as how I am no lawyer and am still learning the underlying terms.

To wit:

But For: the sole reason.

There are (on average) 29,000 arrests every day in America. This is off the high by around 25%. It's an insane arrest rate. Clearly, what The People consider Criminally Divergent and what the Law Enforcement Community does are at odds.

Without analysing The Court's test, which is fairly ambiguous, for an arrest to be justified, there must exist:

Nobody seems much to disagree on the Probable Cause part. It all comes down to the Probability of Arrest.

Jaywalking is (I believe) technically illegal. I see what I would call Jaywalking a significant portion of the time whenever I am at an intersection. It's ubiquitous. Just yesterday, I watched as a Police Officer paused in an intersection (on foot) doing Police Officer things. And within moments, someone Jaywalked (dodging cars) right in from of him. Neither batted an eye.

As I walk down the Public Thoroughfare, it is not uncommon for me to smell what I assume is marijuana. I am told is smells like skunk.

Nor is not uncommon for me to see someone drinking out of a paper bag. I typically assume a bottle of wine (or rot gut) is hidden beneath.

No one bats an eye.

The police do not enforce.

So if they suddenly enforce, the question is why.

Many a local Street Faire is little more than a Bacchanalian Festival. So if a person is getting arrested for Public Drunkenness, why them?

This is the essential question before The Court.

Was Mr. Bartlett arrested for his behaviour or his speech?

His (presumably, illegal) behaviour is not protected. But his Speech is Protected... no matter that he was drunk at the time.

Ultimately, I believe this was a poor case to try and decide such weighty issues, as I believe Mr. Bartlett's behaviour was patently inappropriate.

As presented, he does not make a sympathetic figure.

I would wait until a sympathetic character appeared; and then, try and make the general case that works to their defence.

I believe (and I use the qualifier, as this whole project and page is one of Philosophical Opinion rather than any sort of Legal Analysis), The Court intended a soft comparison. The Dissent seems to assume the opposite.

How it applies to Mr. Bartlett is not clear.

Roughly 10,000 people attended Arctic Man. I am happy to assume that thousands got drunk... and that hundreds jeered the police in their unwanted attempts at enforcing laws that very clearly (at least some of) the people in attendance did not want enforced and/or respect at the core.

But based on my observations of similar crowds, it is very rare for someone to get all up in a Law Enforcement Officer's Face. And it is rarer still for said Police Officer to push someone.

Now, this may well have been a rather benign interaction.
'Take a step back, buddy.'
But it's, also, reasonable for a second Police Officer, who already had a negative interaction with the same individual (even if said interaction was perfectly legal) to read the situation in a more negative light.

It was not a bad arrest.

Summary Judgement should be awarded to the Police Officers.

However, I believe All of the Laws should be Enforced All of the Time. And that failure to Enforce Any Law All of the Time should very quickly Negate Said Law Forever and in All Future Instances.

I see so many Jaywalkers, I do not believe it should be an Offence any longer... same with speeding, drugs, and all the rest.



This is what the Rule of Law is about.

And if you are going to give people tickets for speeding, give Police Officers tickets when they speed without turning on their sirens.

Fair is Fair.

Unfortunately, Unfair is what we've got.

Judging the Judges

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Amnesty Days?

How do these figure in?

Further, why was neither Police Officer using their Body Camera?

No footage? No arrest.

Maybe we should try that on for size.

More important than anything else, I fell better about The Law after reading this case.

Lastly (even though this last word section is getting entirely out of hand), I believe Sotomayor's chief concern was in being able to use Police Officer's Actions as evidence against them in this sort of False Arrest Claim. But I would allow that a proper arrest (one that you and I believe should be made) is a valid defence... even if it is clear that at 29,000 arrests a day, most of them are wholly without merit.

© copyright 2019 Brett Paufler
A Personal Opinion/Editorial