Commentary: Probable cause is not a bludgeon for the thought police

Orlando Sentinel by David Keating and Thomas Wheatley (Guest Columnist)

March 7, 2018

When former U.S. Marine Corps officer Fane Lozman approached the lectern during a Riviera Beach City Council meeting to air his grievances as a citizen, he didn’t suspect he’d be hauled out in handcuffs.

Yet only a few seconds into his speech, that’s exactly what happened. His arrest triggered a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments last week. The case has important implications for citizen activists and journalists alike.

First, a little history. The City Council was sick of Lozman’s opposition to its plan to seize homes, including his, via eminent domain for private development. Lozman filed a lawsuit saying the council flouted an open government law that required more notice of the meeting approving the plan, which appeared to trigger an investigation of City Council members.

Angered by the investigation, council member Elizabeth Wade suggested action to “intimidate” Lozman and give him the “unwarranted heat we are feeling.” His arrest wasn’t the only action taken by the city. Using federal admiralty law, the city seized and sunk his houseboat. That case also wound up at the Supreme Court, and Lozman won. [READ MORE]

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