Washington, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday announced it would hear a case that would determine when criminal defendants can sue police and prosecutors for violating their civil rights.
Attorneys for Larry Thompson in the case Thompson v. Clark filed a petition on Nov. 6, 2020 to have the nation’s highest court intervene and help settle a controversial question, USA Today reported.
The court said it would review the case on March 8.
The lawsuit is based on an incident that occurred at Thompson’s home in Brooklyn in 2014.
Thompson’s sister-in-law, whom court documents described as having “cognitive delays,” called 911 and reported child abuse in the home, USA Today reported.
New York Police Department (NYPD) officers responded to the call and forced their way into Thompson’s home.
Thompson resisted letting the officers into the house and was arrested, USA Today reported.
He spent two days in jail and the charges were dismissed a month later “in the interest of justice.”
It turned out that the allegations of abuse had been based on a case of diaper rash, according to USA Today.
After his case was dismissed, Thompson filed a civil lawsuit that alleged police have violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they busted into his home.
There is a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prevents defendants from suing while their cases are being adjudicated, USA Today reported.
The “favorable termination rule” set out in the 1994 decision says that a defendant who wants to sue police or prosecutors must first prove they were found innocent of the charges.
That can be accomplished by being found “not guilty” at trial or by having a conviction overturned, USA Today reported.
Thompson wasn’t found “not guilty” because his charges were dismissed.
So the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit found there was no affirmative statement of Thompson’s innocence, according to USA Today.
Appeals court rulings have been split on what exactly the “favorable termination rule” means and how it should be applied.
It was expected that the Supreme Court justices would hear the case in the fall, USA Today reported.