Monday, January 30, 2012

You can't walk into a restuarant with an exposed handgun

Here's an easy one for the Court of Appeals. It finds that police officers are entitled to summary judgment in a false arrest and illegal search case where the plaintiff was walking around in a Chili's restaurant with an exposed gun.

The case is Goldberg v. Town of Glastonbury, a summary order decided on December 13. Goldberg was arrested for breach of the peace. Someone at Chili's called 911 because they saw a guy in the building with a gun. When the police arrived, they saw Goldberg with a holstered handgun visible on his hip. The police had reasonable suspicion to stop Goldberg without a warrant. We call this a Terry stop, after a Supreme Court ruling from 1968.

Goldberg also sued for false arrest. No dice for Goldberg. The police had arguable probable cause, a concept that fleshes out the qualified immunity test and makes it difficult to win these cases as law enforcement has an extra layer of protection against liability. The Second Circuit (Newman, Winter and Katzmann) says,

Prior to his arrest, plaintiff had entered the Chili’s restaurant wearing an exposed firearm, which the officers observed upon their arrival in response to the 911 call. Defendant Furlong observed that the manager, Laura Smith, appeared to be nervous, and she reported that she was alarmed over the handgun and had cleared the area as a result. On these facts, and given the lack of settled Connecticut law on the issue, we conclude that reasonable officers could, at minimum, disagree on whether there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff for breach of the peace in the second degree.
Maybe Goldberg knew his chances on appeal were slim. He raised for the first time on appeal an argument under the Second Amendment, you know, the one that says you have the right to bear arms in a public restaurant. The Amendment actually says nothing about public buildings, but ever since the Supreme Court breathed life in the Second Amendment a few years ago, I am sure that half the people with firearms-related convictions are saying that the Constitution protects their behavior. Who knows if Goldberg has a decent argument here. The Court of Appeals will not consider it because he did not raise it in the district court. The argument is waived.

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