Access to Justice

RELEASE: CAC Expresses Disappointment In Supreme Court’s Nieves Ruling

“The Court makes it more likely that, as Justice Sotomayor expressed in her dissent, the real world consequence of this decision will be to ‘shield willful misconduct from accountability.’” — CAC Vice President Praveen Fernandes

WASHINGTON – Earlier today, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Nieves v. Bartlett. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Roberts held that individuals who allege they were unconstitutionally arrested in retaliation for their speech cannot sue for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if there was probable cause to arrest them for any crime, unless they can provide evidence that they were arrested when other similarly situated individuals not engaged in the same type of protected speech were not arrested.

Constitutional Accountability Center Appellate Counsel Brian Frazelle issued the following reaction:

In an opinion that concurred in part and dissented in part, Justice Gorsuch echoed points raised in a brief submitted by CAC, critiquing the majority opinion for importing standards from the torts of false arrest and false imprisonment into a First Amendment claim brought under Section 1983. That statute was meant to protect the unique and fundamental rights guaranteed by the federal Constitution, like the right to free speech, not the interests protected by state tort law. As we explained in our brief, “Artificially limiting the scope of that federal constitutional remedy—in order to fit it within the confines of these dissimilar state torts—would undermine Congress’s statutory plan and the promise of Section 1983.”

Constitutional Accountability Center Vice President for Public Engagement Praveen Fernandes stated:

The majority opinion ignores the text, history, and purpose of Section 1983, which was designed to provide individuals with the ability to seek redress against officers of the state when they violated individuals’ constitutional rights. In doing so, the Court makes it more likely that, as Justice Sotomayor expressed in her dissent, the real world consequence of this decision will be to “shield willful misconduct from accountability.”



CAC’s case page in Nieves v. Bartlett:


Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit CAC’s website at


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