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A victory

by Richard C. Evey

A federal judge has made a ruling that could change the way that law enforcement treats “We the people”.

The judge granted that the plaintiff has liability under the Fourth Amendment and that law enforcement does not have immunity. In my opinion, a major victory for liberty and freedom.

The case: St. John v Alamogordo Public Safety, U. S. District Court of New Mexico, No. 08-994 BB/LAM.

Mr. St. John went into a movie theater openly carrying a holstered handgun. New Mexico has no law forbidding the open carry of a handgun.

The theater owner called Alamogordo Public Safety. Four law enforcement officers (LEO) approached Mr. St. John and with force removed him from the theater, took his handgun and patted him down. After checking, found out that the handgun was legal and that he was not a criminal, returned his handgun and let him go back to the movie but without his handgun, which he placed in his vehicle.

 Mr. St. John filed suit in state court but the case was moved to a federal court because Mr. St. John alleged that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated and also asserts his rights under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act.

The undisputed fact is that Mr. St. John seizure was unreasonable. He had not committed a crime, was not committing a crime and was not about to commit a crime.

The court stated that “the firearm alone did not create a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity”. The court went on to state that the “Defendants (LEO) had no legitimate reason to engage Mr. St. John in the first place”, also the “Defendants (LEO) had no reason for seizing Mr. St. John”, “Mr. St. John had done nothing to arouse suspicion”.

The judge did rule that the Defendants (LEO) did violate Mr. St. John’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Lastly and the best part of this case was that the judge stated that the “Defendants (LEO) motion for summary judgment is denied with regard to qualified immunity”.

In short, the LEOs can be sued. I hope that Mr. St. John also sues the theater owner. The theater owner could have asked Mr. St. John to leave the theater or could have put up a sign; instead he acted like a jerk and called in the Gestapo.

This ruling means that the law enforcement officers will have to think about what they are doing and begin to make sound judgment and not act on impulse. They will have to take responsibility for their action and/ or maybe face a lawsuit. Law enforcement officers, sometimes, have to make quick decisions but without taking any responsibility and with immunity. But the judicial system tells us, the citizens, if we do the same thing we will be held accountable and liable. Now things have changed, law enforcement officers will be held accountable and without immunity. Change I can live with!

This case is not over, it will be appealed and could go to the U. S. Supreme Court and with the people they have on that court, I think that the outcome will be a lot different.

But for now, We the People can claim a victory.