WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has agreed to consider dismissing free-speech claims against two Secret Service agents for their role in a 2004 protest in Oregon against President George W. Bush.
The justices said Tuesday they will review a federal appeals court ruling that allowed a lawsuit against the agents to go forward. The lawsuit claims the two agents violated anti-Bush protesters' free-speech rights by having police move them farther away from where the president was eating dinner than some pro-Bush demonstrators.
Dave Fidanque (fi-DANG'-kee), executive director of the Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the protesters are still waiting for their chance to argue the lawsuit. All the court rulings to this point have been on legal issues, not whether the protesters were treated fairly.
"Here we are nine years after the original events in the case, and we're still at home plate," he said. The Supreme Court ruling will not affect claims against local police, Fidanque said. Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie said the agency had no comment.
Bush had given a speech at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point and was spending the night at the Jacksonville Inn in Jacksonville, a historic gold mining town. The lawsuit claims that when Secret Service agents ordered police to clear the streets around a patio where the president was having dinner, the agents violated the First Amendment rights of anti-Bush demonstrators, while leaving alone pro-Bush demonstrators who were standing a couple of blocks away.
The Obama administration is defending the agents' actions and says that agents who make on-the-spot decisions about the president's security should be shielded from liability.