Last year I wrote about the regrettable case of Junius Peake, a former economics professor at the University of Northern Colorado, who reacted to a student's rather silly parody of him by calling the cops.
What was appalling about the story was not just that Petty Professor Peake reacted to satire by involving the cops. What was truly appalling was that the cops bit, and Deputy District Attorney Susan Knox authorized a search warrant for the student author's home, on the theory that the overt satire was criminal libel.
This week FIRE has an update — the District Court has, in an order granting summary judgment against prosecutor Susan Knox, found that she is liable for violating the student satirist Thomas Mink's rights. More specifically, the court found that Knox was not entitled to qualified immunity because, in light of the patently satirical nature of Mink's site, no reasonable prosecutor could have believed that the warrant established probable cause that Mink had committed criminal libel. (Knox is only entitled to qualified immunity because approving search warrants is a discretionary function, not a core prosecutorial function.)
This is an important and admirable victory — all the more so because it is so appallingly rare for prosecutors to be held liable for misconduct. Prosecutors have a legal and ethical obligation to be more than a mere rubber-stamp for law enforcement demands — they have an obligation to see that the execution of justice does not violate the clearly established constitutional rights of suspects and defendants. Here Susan Knox willingly let the criminal justice system be the lawless tool of a censorious, thin-skinned, and ultimately ridiculous thug. This puts a black mark by her name — and should.
You can read the opinion through the FIRE link.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- A Response To Marc: Institutions, Agendas, and the "Culture War" - January 13th, 2016
- Lawyering Is About Service, Not Self-Actualization - January 11th, 2016
- Lawsplainer: Was FAU Prof. James Tracy Fired in Violation of His First Amendment Rights? - January 7th, 2016
- Defy, Defy, Defy. - January 7th, 2016
- President Obama And The Rhetoric Of Rights - January 5th, 2016