Supreme Court to Review Texas Councilwoman’s Alleged Political Arrest

( – The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday in the case brought by a former Texas city council member who claimed she was arrested in retaliation for criticizing a senior official, NBC News reported.

Shortly after winning a seat on the Castle Hills council in 2019 running as a critic of the city manager, then-72-year-old Sylvia Gonzalez was arrested and charged with inappropriately removing a government document, namely a citizen petition she prepared.

Gonzalez insisted that she accidentally mixed up the petition with other documents.

The charges against her were eventually dropped but not before she had to spend a night in jail.

Gonzalez quit the city council and sued the mayor, the police chief, and the attorney who led the investigation into her, alleging in federal court that her arrest was retaliation for criticizing city manager Ryan Rapelye who engineered her arrest to force her from office.

In taking the case, the Supreme Court once again will be considering qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that protects officials from civil lawsuits.

A federal judge rejected a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on qualified immunity. However, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision, saying there was probable cause to arrest Gonzalez which negated her retaliation claim.

Under Supreme Court precedent, if there is probable cause to arrest, it would be difficult to bring a civil rights claim.

The libertarian legal group the Institute for Justice is representing Gonzalez in the case. An attorney for the group argued before the Supreme Court that Gonzalez should be allowed to bring her lawsuit under Nieves v. Barlett, a 2019 Supreme Court ruling that said if a plaintiff can show those in a similar situation were not arrested, the case can move forward, even if there was probable cause.

During oral arguments, several justices, including conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, appeared to support allowing Gonzalez to provide evidence supporting her claim of retaliation. However, one central question was if she could prove that the charge against her had never been brought against someone before.

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