Court Battles

Supreme Court rules against man over arrest at Arctic Man festival

Greg Nash

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a man can’t sue police officers who he claims arrested him over his speech, saying that they had other probable cause to detain him.

Chief Justice John Roberts opened his bench statement by joking that while many are familiar with the “Burning Man” festival, this case involved an event called “Arctic Man” in Alaska and was “the polar opposite.”

{mosads}Reports claimed that the man, Russell Bartlett, was highly intoxicated and yelled at others to not interact with the police as officers told them to move a beer keg inside. Bartlett then allegedly verbally fought with an Alaska state trooper — Sgt. Luis Nieves — and the officer left rather than escalate the situation.

Bartlett claimed that he wasn’t intoxicated and that Nieves acted aggressively toward him.

Later, Bartlett allegedly approached Alaska State Trooper Bryce Wright as Wright asked a teenager about where he obtained alcohol. Wright claims that Bartlett stood near him “in a combative way,” so the trooper pushed him. Nieves then came over and arrested Bartlett.

But Bartlett claims he wasn’t aggressive and stood near the trooper because of the loud music.

He also alleged that he was slow in complying with orders during the arrest due to a back injury. And Bartlett claimed that Nieves told him, “Bet you wish you would have talked to me now.”

But the divided court sided with the arresting officers.

“Because there was probable cause to arrest Bartlett, his retaliatory arrest claims fails as a matter of law,” the majority opinion reads.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh joined Roberts fully with the majority opinion. Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote separate opinions that agreed with parts of the majority’s findings but dissented with others, while Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion.

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Clarence Thomas Elena Kagan Neil Gorsuch Ruth Bader Ginsburg Samuel Alito Sonia Sotomayor Stephen Breyer

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