Burgess v. Wallingford
Absent any evidence that an individual was arrested because of a message on his shirt, which clearly constituted speech, police officers may be entitled to qualified immunity on the individual's First Amendment claim. In 2010, the plaintiff, Richard Burgess, wore a Connecticut Citizens Defense League shirt that quoted the right to bear arms when he went to Yale Billiards with a loaded handgun. The owner asked Burgess to conceal his handgun and called the police, when Burgess refused. Another customer also called the police. Police arrested Burgess for disorderly conduct. When the disorderly conduct charge was dismissed, Burgess sued, alleging he was unlawfully stopped and falsely arrested. The court found that police had reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, as required to make an investigatory Terry stop, after two individuals complained Burgess was wearing a loaded handgun. Although Burgess claimed he possessed the right to openly carry a handgun in public, an individual can violate the disorderly conduct statute, if he recklessly creates a risk of alarm and annoys another individual. A reasonable officer could find that probable cause existed to arrest Burgess for disorderly conduct. Even if probable cause did not exist, officers of reasonable competence could disagree about whether probable cause existed, and the court found that the defendant officers established that arguable probable cause existed. Absent proof of unreasonable search and seizure or false arrest, the court granted the defendant municipality's motion for judgment on Burgess' failure-to-train count. At the time of Burgess' arrest, it was not clear that the 2nd Amendment applied to the states, and the court found that police were entitled to qualified immunity on the plaintiff's 2nd Amendment claim. Absent any evidence that Burgess was arrested because of the message on his shirt, which clearly constituted speech, the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on Burgess' First Amendment claim. Because the customer who called the police did not make a false report or pressure the police to arrest the plaintiff, the court granted summary judgment to the defendant customer on the plaintiff's malicious prosecution count. The court did not exercise jurisdiction over state-law claims.