WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide if a Secret Service agent can be held liable for arresting a Colorado man who confronted then-Vice President Dick Cheney and told him his "policies in Iraq are disgusting."
The justices will consider an issue potentially significant to all Americans — whether they can criticize public officials without fear of arrest.
But the case before the court is complicated in two ways. First, it involves Secret Service agents who have a duty to act quickly and decisively to protect the president and vice president from harm.
And second, the Colorado man, Steven Howards, touched or pushed Cheney as he confronted him at a shopping mall in Beaver Creek, Colo., in June 2006, and a lower court said his arrest was justified for this reason.
Nonetheless, the U.S. appeals court in Denver cleared the way for the Colorado man to proceed with the part of his suit arguing his arrest was in retaliation for his critical comments and a violation of the First Amendment.
Obama administration lawyers joined lawyers for Agent Virgil "Gus" Reiche and Daniel Doyle, a second agent on the scene, in urging the high court to take up the case and dismiss the lawsuit.
They argued that the agents protecting Cheney had acted reasonably and deserve to be shielded from personal lawsuits for doing their jobs.