On The Front Lines
Federal Appeals Court Refuses to Reinstate Lawsuit Over Marine's Arrest, Detention Due to Facebook Posts; Attorneys Plan to Appeal to Supreme Court
RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court has refused to reinstate the lawsuit of decorated Marine Brandon Raub who was seized by a swarm of Secret Service, FBI and local police officials and involuntarily committed for a week because of controversial song lyrics and political views he posted on his Facebook page. The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Brandon Raub v. Michael Campbell refused to hold the mental health screener liable for Raub’s seizure and commitment and the subsequent deprivation of his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute will appeal the Raub ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a related matter, Rutherford Institute attorneys are awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Elonis v. United States in which a Pennsylvania man was charged with making unlawful threats and sentenced to 44 months in jail after he posted allusions to popular song lyrics and comedy routines on his Facebook page.
“Today’s court ruling is part of a recent trend toward granting government officials—be they police officers or health care workers—‘qualified immunity’ in lawsuits over alleged constitutional violations,” stated constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Unfortunately, such rulings prevent American citizens from gaining true justice while incentivizing government officials to violate constitutional rights without fear of repercussion.”
Brandon Raub, a decorated Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions. On Aug.16, 2012, Chesterfield police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home, asked to speak with him about his Facebook posts, and without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, handcuffed Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to a medical facility, where he was held against his will 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.” Rutherford Institute attorneys filed a lawsuit in May 2013, challenging the government’s actions as procedurally improper and legally unjustified. In February 2014, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, rejecting concerns over government suppression of dissident speech as “far-fetched.” In appealing to the Fourth Circuit, Institute attorneys claimed that the Chesterfield County mental health screener who recommended Raub’s seizure and commitment failed to exercise reasonable professional judgment in interviewing and in wrongly determining that Raub was mentally ill and dangerous, thereby violating Raub’s rights under the Fourth Amendment. The lawsuit also asserted that Raub’s seizure and detention were the result of a 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.
Attorneys William H. Hurd and Stephen C. Piepgrass of Troutman Sanders and Anthony Troy and Charles A. Zdebski of Eckert Seamens Cherin & Mellott are assisting The Rutherford Institute by representing Brandon Raub.