On The Front Lines
Citing First & Fourth Amendments, Rutherford Institute Asks Appeals Court to Reinstate Lawsuit Over Marine’s Arrest, Detention Due to Facebook Posts
RICHMOND, Va. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a brief with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the court to reinstate a lawsuit on behalf of a decorated Marine who was arrested by a swarm of Secret Service and FBI agents and local police and forcibly detained in a psychiatric ward for a week because of controversial song lyrics and political views posted on his Facebook page. Rutherford Institute attorneys filed the lawsuit in May 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the government’s actions as procedurally improper, legally unjustified, and in violation of Raub’s First Amendment rights.
In February 2014, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, rejecting concerns over government suppression of dissident speech as “far-fetched.” In asking the Court of Appeals to reinstate the lawsuit, Institute attorneys argue that Raub was unjustly deprived of his liberty because of a failure in the mental health system to competently evaluate Raub’s mental condition. The lawsuit also alleges that Raub’s seizure and detention were the result of a Chesterfield County mental health screener’s dislike of Raub’s “unpatriotic” views on federal government misconduct, thereby violating the ex-Marine’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
“What may sound far-fetched to the courts is a grim reality to Americans who are daily being targeted for daring to exercise their constitutional rights to speak their minds, worship as they please, criticize the government, defend themselves and their families against over-reaching government surveillance and heavy-handed police tactics,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “Ultimately, Brandon Raub’s case tests our tolerance for free speech and those dissidents who keep the First Amendment relevant, because if we cannot proclaim our feelings about the government, no matter how controversial—on our clothing, or to passersby, or to the users of the world wide web—then the First Amendment really has become an exercise in futility.”
On Aug.16, 2012, Chesterfield police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Brandon Raub’s home, asking to speak with him about his Facebook posts. Like many Facebook users, Raub, a Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions. Without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials handcuffed Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will. In a hearing on Aug. 20, government officials pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the reason for his incarceration. A Special Justice subsequently ordered that Raub be held up to 30 more days for psychological evaluation and treatment. In coming to Raub’s aid, Rutherford Institute attorneys challenged the government’s actions as a violation of Raub’s First and Fourth Amendment rights. On Aug. 23, Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett ordered Raub’s immediate release, stating that the government’s case was “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.”
Attorneys Anthony Troy and Charles A. Zdebski of Eckert Seamens Cherin & Mellott, LLC, and William H. Hurd and Stephen C. Piepgrass of Troutman Sanders, LLP in Richmond are assisting The Rutherford Institute in bringing the lawsuit.