Search & Seizure; First Amendment & Free Speech; Constitutional Issues
McGovern v. George Washington University (D.D.C. Mar. 28, 2017)
Memorandum Opinion granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a visitor at George Washington University (GWU), claimed that the private University and three of its Special Police Officers violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him for engaging in “a silent expression of dissent" during an address by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on University property. The court found that the individual Defendants acted under color of state law in approaching, removing, and arresting Plaintiff, but it sidestepped the issue of whether and under what circumstances police officers employed by private universities may invoke the defense of qualified immunity because Plaintiff’s arrest was supported by probable cause. Plaintiff also failed to establish that the officers falsely arrested him in violation of his constitutional rights or that a reasonable jury could conclude that the force employed was objectively unreasonable, and therefore GWU was entitled to summary judgment on these claims. Finally, because GWU is a private institution, Plaintiff failed to establish that the University must abide by the First Amendment ,and therefore he could not bring a legally-cognizable free expression claim against the University.