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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Michael Haggerty was the teacher of a group of students, one of whose members had been attacked by eight men in the Texas Southern University cafeteria. Kendrick Randolph, the man who had been attacked, was out of control, trying to go after those who had just attacked him. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Haggerty, the court states that as Haggerty followed Randolph outside, he arrived in time to see a TSU police officer, Willie Williams, handcuffing Randolph. Haggerty yelled at Williams not to handcuff Randolph and that he (Haggerty) was Randolph’s teacher. Williams ordered Haggerty to “step back,” which he did, or else be arrested. As Williams took Randolph to the student center, Randolph pulled away and tried to again go after the people who had attacked him. Haggerty arrived at the student union just as Williams was slamming Randolph into a wall. Haggerty took several steps towards Williams and told him not to “slam that boy into the wall,” and not to “manhandle that juvenile.” Williams made a comment back, and then several other officers arrived and tackled Haggerty. Haggerty was arrested for interference with the duties of a public servant. Haggerty then filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim for false arrest/false imprisonment, excessive force and malicious prosecution. He also filed state-law false imprisonment and malicious prosecution claims. Williams filed for summary judgment, claiming qualified immunity on Haggerty’s 1983 claims and official immunity on his state-law claims. The district court denied the motions. HOLDING:Affirmed in part; reversed and dismissed in part. To analyze Williams’ assertion of qualified immunity for the 1983 claims, the court says it will first consider whether the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, show that the officer’s conduct violated a constitutional right. If so, the court will then ask whether the right was clearly established, that is, whether it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful under the circumstances. To show that his arrest was unlawful, Haggerty would have to show that it was not based on probable cause. Haggerty says that his protest of the Randolph’s arrest was made through speech only, and speech only could not serve as the probable cause for an interference charge. The court concludes, looking at the incident from start to finish, that this was a case where police had been called to quell a tense situation, and Haggerty, after being told to step back, was still approaching the officer as he subdued Randolph, yelling loudly in front of a crowd. The court says a reasonable officer in Williams’ position could have believed that Haggerty’s actions were serving to stir up a potentially explosive situation, and there was “a fair probability” that Haggerty’s actions constituted interference with his duties. The fact that Haggerty’s actions included speech does not cancel out the fact that a reasonable officer could have believed that the actions were not limited to speech. The court then reverses the trial court’s denial of summary judgment on this point, though the court affirms the denial on Haggerty’s excessive force claim under 1983 because Williams did not brief the issue. The court also reverses the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on Haggerty’s state law false imprisonment and malicious prosecution claims. OPINION:Garwood, J.; Garwood, Wiener and DeMoss, J. PARTIAL DISSENT:DeMoss, J. The dissent objects to the majority’s ruling on the 1983 false imprisonment claim. The dissent points out that there is a “mere speech” defense to the interference charge found in Penal Code 38.15, a defense Williams would have been familiar with and trained in its application. “Any reasonable police officer would know of and recognize his obligations to abide by the language of the statutory provision, including the obligation to refrain from arresting one whose objections are expressed merely by speech.”

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