Scientology Crime Syndicate

13 Nov 2000

Court to Decide Immunity in Arrest at Gore Event

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a case about an animal rights activist taken into custody during a speech by Vice President Al Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would decide whether the arresting officer used excessive force and should be denied immunity from being sued.

The high court agreed to review a ruling that allowed protester Elliot Katz to proceed with his lawsuit seeking damages over his claim that a military police officer used excessive force during his 1994 arrest in San Francisco.

Gore and other speakers on Sept. 24, 1994, gave a special

presentation at the Presidio military post to celebrate the

facility's conversion the next week from an Army base into a national park. The public was invited to attend the event.

While Gore spoke, Katz walked from his front-row seat to a barrier separating spectators from the vice president. He began to unfurl a banner, measuring four feet by three feet, that declared, "Please Keep Animal Torture Out of Our National Parks."

The Army prohibits the display of political banners on military bases. Army Pvt. Donald Saucier and another military police officer removed Katz from the seating area.

Katz, a veterinarian who was 60 years old at the time, was wearing a knee-high leg brace because of a broken foot. He was not wearing a shoe on his injured foot.


Katz, a member of the group "In Defense of Animals," said the officers picked him up by the arms, removed him from the area and that he was then "shoved" into a military police van located behind the seating area.

He said they "violently threw" him inside. He said he nearly fell into the van and was almost injured.

The officers never spoke to Katz, and they left him alone inside the vehicle for about 20 minutes.

After being driven to a military police station, Katz was briefly detained and then released. He was never told why he was arrested and was never cited with any violation of any law or regulation.

Katz sued for violations of his constitutional rights, alleging Saucier arrested him without sufficient cause and with excessive force. He also made a number of other claims against other defendants.

A federal judge dismissed the other claims, but ruled that Saucier was not entitled to partial immunity on the excessive force claim. The judge said a question existed whether a reasonable officer could believe the use of force was lawful.

A U.S. appeals court upheld the decision.

The Justice Department, on behalf of Saucier, appealed to the Supreme Court. It said the decision "creates a de facto no-force rule for many arrests and invites inappropriate second-guessing of an officer's on-the-spot judgement."

The Justice Department said the officers were confronted with the possibility of an escalation with other potential protesters in the crowd and were charged with helping ensure Gore's safety.

To be decided by the high court was whether the same legal standard governed the question of partial immunity and the test on a search's reasonableness under the U.S. Constitution.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case next year, with a decision due by the end of June.


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