Supreme Court rules for grandmother allegedly jailed in an act of political retaliation

By 
 June 22, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the former Texas councilwoman who was put in jail in an act of political retaliation. 

Fox News reports that the high court ruled in favor of 72-year-old Sylvia Gonzalez on Thursday.

The court's decision was 8 to 1, with only Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting.

CNN reports, "In dissent, Thomas asserted that there shouldn’t be an exception to the probable cause rule on retaliatory arrests and he criticized the court for what he described as further expanding that exception."

Background

NBC News provides the background details of Gonzalez's arrest.

Per the outlet:

Gonzalez, who was 72 at the time, was arrested in 2019 soon after having taken office as a council member in Castle Hills, Texas. She had run for election as a critic of the city manager. Gonzalez was charged with inappropriately removing a government document, identified as a citizen petition she had prepared.

Gonzalez claimed that this was a mistake - that the document had accidentally got mixed in with other papers that belonged to her.

The charges did end up being dropped, but not without some serious consequences. For one thing, Gonzales was forced to spend an entire day in jail, and, for another, she also quit her government position.

Gonzales responded by bringing a lawsuit in which she claimed that her arrest was politically motivated - that it was ordered in retaliation for her criticisms of the city manager. In the lawsuit, she alleged that the officials had violated her free speech rights.

Supreme Court weighs in

As stated at the outset, on Thursday, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Gonzalez. What the justices actually did was reverse a Fifth Circuit decision.

"A Fifth Circuit court tossed her case, saying she didn't present required evidence to advance a 'retaliatory-arrest' case that would show others had not been arrested after engaging in similar conduct," Fox reports.

The outlet adds, "The Supreme Court on Thursday reversed the Fifth Circuit's decision, finding that Gonzalez's research showing that the statute under which she had been charged had never been used in her county to prosecute someone for 'trying to steal a nonbinding or expressive document' was sufficient to support her claim."

So, now, Gonzales is allowed to proceed with her claim.

Gonzalez, following her Supreme Court victory, released a statement, saying, "No one should have to go through what I went through, and with this decision, I'm confident it won't happen again."

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