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U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Alaska Troopers lawful actions

May 29, 2019

The Department of Law is pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court in Nieves v. Bartlett today held that a plaintiff suing his arresting officers on the theory that they arrested him in retaliation for his First Amendment speech cannot prevail if the officers had probable cause to arrest. As a result of the Court’s decision, a lawsuit against two Alaska State Troopers who had arrested a man for disorderly conduct at the Arctic Man festival must be dismissed. Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson made the following comment following the Supreme Court’s decision:

"The U.S. Supreme Court has clarified that a lawful arrest protects a police officer from an unnecessary lawsuit. This is a great decision for law enforcement officers across over the nation."

This case stems from an incident that occurred at Alaska's Arctic Man festival in 2014. Russell Bartlett, the plaintiff, was arrested by two Alaska state troopers for disorderly conduct. Mr. Bartlett then sued the arresting officers alleging that the arrest was unlawful retaliation against him for challenging their authority to investigate underage drinking at one of the festival’s late-night parties. The federal district court dismissed Mr. Bartlett’s lawsuit after finding that the troopers had probable cause to arrest Mr. Bartlett, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, ruling that suit could go forward. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in June 2018.

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Department Media Contact: Senior Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills at (907) 465-2132 or