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Friday, March 21, 2014

Supreme Court Preview: Bush’s Decision to Dine Al Fresco Sparks Secret Service Fiasco

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While you might not think twice about popping into your favorite local restaurant and asking for a seat on the patio, when it's the president looking for a bite to eat, that decision comes with a host of security issues that must be addressed by the Secret Service.

Throw in about 300 demonstrators, there to both support and protest the commander in chief, and things can escalate quickly.

But the dispute heading to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 26 in Wood v. Moss, thankfully has nothing to do with a breach of security. Instead, it's the Secret Service agents that are defending themselves from allegations that they violated the free speech rights of protesters opposed to President George W. Bush.

The question boils down to how much leeway courts should be prepared to grant federal agents when they are conducting matters of the utmost importance to national security—such as protecting the president.

Here, the protesters allege that they were moved away from Bush based on the views they expressed. Specifically, they claim they were moved further away from the president than those who showed up to support him.

But, the Secret Service agents, represented by the U.S. Solicitor General, argue that—even at the earliest stages of pleading—a court must take into account the security concerns and the circumstances facing those tasked with protecting the president, and based on those considerations, the protesters here did not plead sufficient facts to defeat the agents' defense of qualified immunity.

Law Week Legal Editor Jeff Koelemay joins us for a preview of the case before arguments on Wednesday.


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