U.S. Law Week: On The Merits adds a new dimension to U.S. Law Week's
coverage of courts, cases and legal issues. Using both new and
traditional media, we aim to provide visitors with accessible
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Friday, March 21, 2014
by Tom P. Taylor
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
to post a comment.
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