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Reichle v. Howards

Docket No.: 11-262
Certiorari Granted: 12/05/11
Argued: March 21, 2012
Decided: 06/04/12


Bivens action, First Amendment, First Amendment retaliatory arrest, Fourteenth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, absolute immunity, murder, probable cause, qualified immunity, retaliation

PartyNames: Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle, Jr., et al. v. Steven Howards
Petitioner: Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle, Jr., et al.
Respondent: Steven Howards

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Citation: 634 F.3d 1131
Supreme Court Docket

Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle, Jr., et al.
Steven Howards

Petitioners, two Secret Service agents on protective detail, arrested respondent following an encounter with Vice President Richard Cheney. Petitioners had probable cause to arrest respondent, who in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001 falsely denied making unsolicited physical contact with the Vice President. Respondent thereafter brought a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim against petitioners.

Question Presented:

1. Whether, as the Tenth Circuit siding with the Ninth Circuit held here, the existence of probable cause to make an arrest does not bar a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim; or whether, as the Second, Sixth, Eighth, and Eleventh Circuits have held, probable cause bars such a claim, including under Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250 (2006). 2. Whether the Tenth Circuit erred by denying qualified and absolute immunity to petitioners where probable cause existed for respondent's arrest, the arrest comported with the Fourth Amendment, it was not (and is not) clearly established that Hartman does not apply to First Amendment retaliatory arrest claims, and the denial of immunity threatens to interfere with the split-second, life-or-death decisions of Secret Service agents protecting the President and Vice President.


1. Does probable cause to make an arrest bar a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim? 2. Do Secret Service agents have qualified immunity in the matter of an arrest for which there was probable cause consistent with the Fourth Amendment?



Reichle v. Howards


Listen to Oral Argument in Reichle v. Howards
Vote: 8-0
Majority: Judgment Reversed, Case Remanded. Thomas, Chief Justice Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, Sotomayor
Concurring: Ginsburg,Breyer
Opinion By:

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Reichle v. Howards
Case Documents

1Slip Opinion in Reichle v. Howards (Opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas)
2Reichle v. Howards Oral Argument Audio
3Reichle v. Howards Oral Argument Transcript (HTML)
4Reichle v. Howards Oral Argument Audio (March 21, 2012)
5Reichle v. Howards Oral Argument Transcript