Saturday, June 3, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Malicious Prosecution Case Heads to High Court

CHICAGO (CN) - The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether state law alone satisfies malicious-prosecution claims after police falsified a man's drug-test results.

Though Elijah Manuel faced charges in March 2011 of possession with intent to distribute ecstasy, Manuel says the police in Joliet, Ill., falsified the results of a test to show that the pills in his pocket were ecstasy.

A lab report Manuel submitted on April 1 found that the pills were not ecstasy, but Illinois still arraigned Manuel week later and waited another month to dismiss the charges.

Since Manuel spent that month in lockup, he had to miss work and drop the college courses for which he had already paid.

Though Manuel filed a federal complaint against the city of Joliet and various officers, most of his civil rights claims in 2013 were deemed time barred.

Manuel did have a timely claim for malicious prosecution but the court dismissed this count as well under the 2001 case Newsome v. McCabe, in which the Seventh Circuit ruled that there is no malicious prosecution claim under federal law if state law provides a similar cause of action, which Illinois law does.

Newsome decided that a malicious prosecution claim is founded on the right to due process, not the Fourth Amendment.

Manuel asked the Seventh Circuit to reconsider its holding in Newsome, pointing to 10 other circuits that have recognized federal malicious-prosecution claims under the Fourth Amendment, but the Chicago-based appeals court rejected the appeal.

"Manuel does not provide a compelling reason to overrule our precedent," an unsigned order dated Jan. 28, 2015, states. "While Manuel's counsel advanced a strong argument, given the position we have consistently taken in upholding Newsome, Manuel's argument is better left for the Supreme Court."

The Supreme Court apparently agreed and granted Manuel certiorari on Friday.

Per its custom the court did not issue any statement on the order.

Joliet police had arrested Manuel while he was riding in a car with his brother.

Though the officer pulled them over for failing to signal, he claimed he smelled marijuana odor coming from the car.

Manuel said the officer then flung open the passenger's door without warning and dragged him out, pushed him to the ground, put him in handcuffs, and then punched and kicked him.

The officer found a bottle of pills in Manuel's pocket during a pat-down search.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.