The Black Lives Matter movement got a favorable ruling Monday from the Supreme Court.
The justices tossed out a federal appeals court decision that allowed a Black Lives Matter protest organizer to be sued by a police officer injured by an unknown assailant.
The 2016 incident in Baton Rouge, La., followed the shooting death of Alton Sterling by a white police officer, which triggered weeks of protests across the U.S.
The officer, identified as John Doe, was struck in the face by a rock. He sued DeRay Mckesson, a Black Lives Matter activist, on the theory that he “knew or should have known … that violence would result.”
The officer, who suffered injuries to his brain, jaw and teeth, also sued Black Lives Matter. That was tossed out on the theory that BLM is a social movement and cannot be sued.
McKesson rose to prominence as an activist in the BLM movement during protests in Ferguson, Mo., following the August 2014 shooting death of Black teen Michael Brown by a white police officer.
The American Civil Liberties Union took up Mckesson’s cause after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, reversed a district judge’s ruling and ruled the lawsuit could go forward.
The Supreme Court, in an unsigned opinion, said that appeals court should not have reached its ruling, based on free speech rights, without a clear understanding of Louisiana law. They sent the case back for further review.
“The Fifth Circuit should not have ventured into so uncertain an area of tort law — one laden with value judgments and fraught with implications for First Amendment rights — without first seeking guidance on potentially controlling Louisiana law from the Louisiana Supreme Court,” the justices said.
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the ruling. New Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the case.
David Cole, the ACLU’s legal director, had said allowing the appeals court decision to stand “would have a tremendous chilling effect on the First Amendment right to protest.”
But in court papers, lawyers for the injured police officer had argued that reversing the appeals court decision “would encourage negligent, unpeaceful, and illegal behavior at the expense of others and, in particular, would expose law enforcement officers to serious harm.”
The Supreme Court’s most significant precedent also involved a protest organized by Black leaders. It ruled unanimously in 1982 that the NAACP was not liable for damages caused by a boycott of white merchants in Mississippi because its role was nonviolent.
Source: USA TODAY