The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a freedom of expression case involving an opponent of the Iraq war arrested for touching the shoulder of then-vice president Dick Cheney.
The justices said they would hear arguments in the case of Steven Howards, arrested in 2006 by Secret Service agents who were subsequently sued by the man for violations of his constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression.
A Colorado court ruled the 2006 arrest was justified but also allowed Howards to pursue a lawsuit against the two agents who arrested them.
The agents asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case, and have been backed by the US Justice Department and 20 states.
They claim that allowing the suit to proceed “exposes the Secret Service agents to the risk of burdensome litigation and potential personal liability each time they confront a potential threat.”
Howards was arrested after the incident involving Cheney in June 2006 in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Authorities said he told Cheney that the US policy in Iraq was “disgusting” and touched the vice president with an open hand. He later denied any physical contact with Cheney.
The court will hear arguments on whether the arrest was a violation of free speech and whether the agents are immune from lawsuits in the conduct of their duty.