683 F.Supp. 824 (D.D.C. 1987), Civ. A. 81-0171, Kroll v. United States Capitol Police

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 81-0171
Citation:683 F.Supp. 824
Party Name:Kroll v. United States Capitol Police
Case Date:June 22, 1987
Court:United States District Courts, District of Columbia

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683 F.Supp. 824 (D.D.C. 1987)

Michael A. KROLL, Plaintiff



Civ. A. No. 81-0171.

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

June 22, 1987

Arthur B. Spitzer, ACLU, Joseph M. Sellers, Washington, D.C., for plaintiff.

R. Craig Lawrence, Asst. U.S. Atty., Washington, D.C., for defendants.


JOHN GARRETT PENN, District Judge.

This case came before the Court on the defendants' motion to dismiss or, the alternative, for summary judgment and the plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability. After giving careful consideration to the motions, the Court ruled that the plaintiff should not have been arrested for holding a banner without a permit on the steps of the United States Capitol Building during a public ceremony and that he was entitled to recover damages in an amount commensurate with his actual loss for having been unlawfully arrested while exercising his First Amendment rights. Kroll v. United States Capitol Police, 590 F.Supp. 1282 (D.C.Cir.1983). 1 The defendants appealed that determination. After argument, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to this Court for a statement of the reasons this Court implicitly rejected the claim of the individual defendants (appellees) to qualified immunity. See Kroll v. United States Capitol Police, No. 83-2014 (D.C.Cir. January 29, 1985). This Supplemental Opinion constitutes the Court's response to that remand.

While the Court did not cite to Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982),

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it referred to defendants' claims of qualified immunity and applied the Harlow standards in rejecting those claims. The Court now briefly elaborates on the claims of qualified immunity.

In Harlow the Supreme Court recognized that governmental officials may be entitled to qualified immunity "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." 457 U.S. at 818, 102 S.Ct. at 2738 (citations and footnote omitted). "If the law at that time was not clearly established, an official could not reasonably be expected to anticipate subsequent legal developments, nor could he fairly be said to 'know' that the law forbade conduct not previously identified as unlawful." Id.

Turning to the facts of this case the Court observed that:

[P]laintiff's presence did not obstruct traffic, pedestrian or vehicular, nor did he promote confusion or otherwise interfere with the orderly proceeding of the ceremony. Moreover, plaintiff did not compete with the ceremony by imposing his views to the exclusion of the other messages. He did not speak, and thus interfere; he merely held a banner. Anyone who did not want to receive his message could simply avert his/her eyes.

Kroll, 590 F.Supp. at 1288-89. The Court also observed that:

When plaintiff was confronted by Capitol Police officers he inquired whether the approximately twelve other individuals holding banners and signs in the vicinity of the ceremony had permits to demonstrate. He was informed that they did not but their conduct was not proscribed because their messages did not conflict with the spirit of the ceremony.

Id. at 1291-92 (emphasis supplied). It is undisputed that no permit was issued for the ceremony because it was held pursuant to a Senate Resolution. 2 Since the twelve individuals who also carried signs were not arrested because their signs were in support of the major demonstration, it is clear that the plaintiff was singled out due to the content of his expression.

This Court went on to note that "...

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