A former city council member from Castle Hill, Texas, is asking the Supreme Court to sound off on its standards for retaliatory arrests.
The case by Sylvia Gonzalez has been profiled by the Scotusblog that monitors and reports on activities at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The post explained that Gonzalez easily won her city council race in 2019 “on a promise to unseat the allegedly corrupt city manager through a petition.”
A city resident presented the petition to Mayor Edward Trevino at Gonzalez’s first council meeting, but after the meeting, Trevino asked her for the petition.
She had gathered the papers around her desk at the close of the meeting, and put them in a binder. To her surprise they apparently included the petition, and authorities charged her with “intentionally … concealing” government papers.
Trevino had told city police to investigate Gonzalez, and the council member, 72, was jailed, with her mugshot released to local media.
“Gonzalez gave in and ultimately resigned from the city council,” the report said.
Then she sued Trevino and found that her “stance against the city manager” had been used to justify an arrest warrant, which prompted her to charge it was a case of retaliatory arrest, in violation of her First Amendment rights.
Gonzalez did not dispute police had probable cause for her arrest, even if she picked up the document by mistake. But she said an exception already has been defined by the Supreme Court and it should apply to her case.
That’s when a participant in a case can show that others caught in similar circumstances were not arrested.
That’s her contention in her lawsuit.
The blog explained that Chief Justice John Roberts, in the prior case, had explained that if a vocal critic of police conduct is arrested for jaywalking and then could provide evidence that officers did not arrest other jaywalkers, there’s an exception.
Gonzalez had assembled evidence that all of the cases under the statute she was charged with violating in Texas in the last 10 years involved “forging government IDs or tampering with financial records.”
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None involved conduct “remotely” like hers, she charged.
It was the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that stopped her lawsuit. In a dissent at that court, one judge was explicit: “There’s zero difficulty or complexity in figuring out whether it was animus or [Gonzalez’s] purportedly criminal conduct that caused her arrest.”
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