Supreme Court to Hear Cheney-Secret Service Case

Liz De La Torre

Whether he sought it or not, civilian Steven Howards has found himself in the forefront of a high-profile case that is challenging constitutional policies on a national scale. Following a 2006 Secret Service detail gone awry in Colorado, Howards is in a very conspicuous position. In a remarkable scene of events, Howards is suing two Secret Service agents, Dan Doyle and Virgil Reichle, for unlawful arrest against what he deems was his own constitutionally-protected speech.

As the case alleges, Howards observed former Vice President Dick Cheney greeting people and subsequently approached  him, calling his Iraq policies “disgusting.” Moreover, Secret Service agent Dan Doyle stated that he overheard Howards say “I’m going to ask him how many kids he’s killed today” while talking on the phone. Upon departure, Howards evidently touched Cheney’s right shoulder. Nevertheless, when confronted by Reichle, Howards denied ever touching Cheney. Affirming the incident, Doyle displayed Howards’s “unsolicited physical contact” with Cheney. Howards was then arrested on harassment charges under Colorado law though these charges were eventually dropped.

Now, Howards is suing the Secret Service agents on the grounds that his arrest was a violation of his First Amendment rights. In response, the agents have claimed immunity and maintained that they did, in fact, have probable cause to arrest Howards because he had lied about touching Cheney. The First Amendment has always sparked discussion, but this recent ordeal has brought a new aspect to the controversy surrounding free speech.

Supported by the Obama administration, attorneys for the agents have credited the Secret Service agents’ responsibility as a duty which causes them to assess potential dangers or threats: “Secret Service agents on protective detail must make split-second decisions that could have life-or-death and historic consequences. It is vitally important, therefore, that Secret Service agents act without hesitation.” As of now, the Supreme Court will hear the case in the spring and is hoping to make a decision by June.