On The Front Lines
Rutherford Institute Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court on Behalf of Marine Who Was Targeted by FBI, Secret Service & Arrested for Criticizing Gov’t on Facebook
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of decorated Marine Brandon Raub who was seized by a swarm of Secret Service, FBI and local police officials and involuntarily committed to a mental institution for a week after posting controversial song lyrics and political views critical of the government on his Facebook page. In asking the Supreme Court to reinstate Brandon Raub v. Michael Campbell, Rutherford Institute attorneys are challenging a ruling by a lower court judge who characterized the Institute’s concerns over government suppression of dissident speech as “far-fetched.” Moreover, Institute attorneys are urging the Court to establish standards to guide and constrain mental health professionals when they seek to commit individuals and to prevent commitment on the basis of a person’s exercise of his right to free speech.
“This case has thus far been the unfortunate victim of a growing 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. “However, as this case makes clear, social media and the Internet have become tools for the government to monitor, control and punish the populace for behavior and speech that may be controversial but are far from criminal. It’s our hope that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the side of free speech and preserve one of the last truly free forums remaining to us in this country.”
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.”
On appeal to the Court of Appeals for 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 wrongly determining that Raub was mentally ill and dangerous, and 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. The appeals court subsequently affirmed the lower court judgment.
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.