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Washington • The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave an Illinois man a new chance to sue the city of Joliet and its police officers who arrested him on trumped up charges and kept him in jail for nearly seven weeks.
The 6-2 ruling ordered the federal appeals court in Chicago to reconsider a lawsuit filed by Elijah Manuel. Police arrested him in 2011 and falsely claimed he was in possession of the illegal drug known as ecstasy.
The police persuaded a prosecutor that Manuel had illegal drugs and the prosecutor took the case to a grand jury and obtained an indictment. When prosecutors finally saw a police lab report showing that the pills Manuel had were vitamins, the indictment was dismissed.
Manuel sued, but lower courts said his claim of unlawful arrest was too late and that he could not sue for unlawful detention under the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches and seizures.
Writing for the high court, Justice Elena Kagan said the Fourth Amendment applies not just to arrests, but also when suspects are detained. She said Manuel could bring a claim of wrongful detention because the judge's order holding Manuel for trial "lacked any proper basis."
"That means Manuel's ensuing pretrial detention, no less than his original arrest, violated his Fourth Amendment rights," Kagan said.
Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying Manuel's case was a malicious prosecution claim that could not be brought under the Fourth Amendment.