Feb 01 2013

4th Circuit say 1st Amendment still applies inside TSA checkpoint

Ruling last week in a case brought by a man who was falsely arrested for displaying the text of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution written on his chest during a “secondary inspection” by the TSA at the  Richmond, VA, airport (RIC), the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal seeking the dismissal of a Federal civil complaint against TSA, DHS, and airport officials, police, and checkpoint staff.

The ruling means that the claims for damages by U. of Cincinnati architecture student Aaron Tobey (Tobey v. Jones et al., originally filed as Tobey v. Napolitano et al.) will go back to the District Court to proceed toward a trial. (Mr. Tobey is represented by attorneys from the Rutherford Institute.)

Even the dissent from the 2-1 decision (containing such gems as, “[I]t is sometimes necessary to make small sacrifices to achieve greater gains or, as in this case, to avoid catastrophic loss”, a bizarre statement given the lack of any allegation that Mr. Tobey, any of his actions, or the words written on his chest posed any but a political “threat”) admitted that, “TSA screening agents are not natural objects of affection…. TSA agents… can and do make mistakes, and there is always the chance that imbuing subordinate officials with a bit of authority can make them tyrants in their spheres.”

In rejecting the TSA and police appeal, and allowing Mr. Tobey’s case to go forward, the majority of the Circuit Court panel made several key rulings upholding travelers’ 1st Amendment rights and continuing and extending a line of decisions upholding personal liability on the part of individuals responsible for illegal actions at checkpoints: Read More