The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Linklaters, LLP, on behalf of Bruce Washington, recently filed their brief in opposition to the Defendant’s appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Mr. Washington, a 53-year-old Black man, was involved subjected to a hostile, invasive pretextual stop by three deputies of the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office (“STPSO”), including Deputy Alexander Thomas.

In the district court, Mr. Washington argued that Deputy Thomas violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches absent reasonable suspicion that he was armed and dangerous, or his consent. Claiming that each alleged infraction by Deputy Thomas could have been resolved through the issuance of a traffic citation. Instead, Deputy Thomas arbitrarily and unconstitutionally violated Mr. Washington’s civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 

On November 29, 2022, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to Mr. Washington’s claim of unlawful search citing qualified immunity, asking the district court to find that Defendant Thomas was entitled to qualified immunity. On December 22, 2023, the district court denied summary judgment and found in favor of Mr. Washington. Following this decision, Defendant Thomas filed notice for appeal asking for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the district court’s ruling. 

In response, Mr. Washington argues that the district court was correct in its decision to deny summary judgment due to the genuine issues of material fact surrounding whether Deputy Thomas had reasonable suspicion or Mr. Washington’s consent to conduct a search of his person. The district court appropriately and carefully analyzed the facts of the case and ultimately found that a reasonable jury could conclude that Deputy Thomas had neither Mr. Washington’s consent, nor reasonable suspicion that he was armed and dangerous when he conducted the pat down, and that such conduct violated Mr. Washington’s clearly established constitutional right to be free from unlawful searches when, absent any articulable facts suggesting a safety risk to the officers or the public, he did not validly and voluntarily consent to the search. Therefore, summary judgment was properly denied on the basis of qualified immunity.

Mr. Washington is represented by Nora Ahmed and Bridget Wheeler at the ACLU of Louisiana and the team of Elizabeth Raulston, Jarret Field, and Zoë Lillian at Linklaters, LLP.

The Defendant-Appellant in this case is:

  • Alexander Thomas, Deputy Police Officer of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office

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