Civil and Human Rights

RELEASE: Supreme Court should accept broad agreement among civil rights plaintiff, police, and the federal government in malicious prosecution case

WASHINGTON, DC – Following oral argument at the Supreme Court this morning in Chiaverini v. City of Napoleon, Ohio, a case in which the Court is considering whether police officers who file baseless criminal charges against a person are exempt from liability simply because the officers also filed other charges against that person that were supported by probable cause, Constitutional Accountability Center Deputy Chief Counsel Brian Frazelle issued the following reaction:

Chief Justice Roberts has long endorsed the principle that “if it is not necessary to decide more to dispose of a case, then it is necessary not to decide more.” That straightforward principle should guide the Court in resolving this case.

In this case, all sides now agree that police officers can be held liable for malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment if they make baseless accusations that cause a person’s arrest. The Supreme Court agreed to review this case because one of the courts of appeals wrongly ruled to the contrary. All that’s necessary to decide this case, therefore, is to reject that erroneous ruling, which even the police officer defendants are no longer attempting to justify.

Additional questions about exactly how a falsely accused person can prove their claim should be left to future cases. For now, the Supreme Court should simply hold, as we showed in our amicus brief, that under the Fourth Amendment and federal civil rights law, police officers are not off the hook for making groundless accusations simply because they managed to combine those false charges with one legitimately brought charge. Such a decision would be a small but important step forward for police accountability.



Case page in Chiaverini v. City of Napoleon, Ohio:


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