Percy Green II is a well known civil rights figure in St. Louis. Last week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed a case involving Green’s arrest several years back, for his alleged disruption of a school board meeting.
Subsequently, the charges against Green were dropped. Green nevertheless sued the police officers who had arrested him, alleging that the arrest violated his civil rights.
The district court granted the police officers qualified immunity. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of Green’s claims.
The events of the 2003 school board meeting are vague, at best. While the police officers allege that Green was being uncooperative and disruptive, several audience members came forward with affidavits stating that Green had been sitting quietly.
The officers arrested Percy Green on the account of one Officer McCrary, who claimed to have asked Green to leave and was met with resistance.
Percy Green was let go, eventually, but not before being arrested. So in light of the unclear facts, he alleged that his arrest was wrong.
Green sued, alleging that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated when he had been arrested without probable cause. The district court granted the officers summary judgment on the ground of qualified immunity.
While the doctrine of qualified immunity shields the government officials from damages liability, the court noted that it “gives ample room for mistaken judgments by protecting all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”
In the case of Percy Green, while the officers may have relied on bad information in arresting Green, the mistake was objectively reasonable, in light of the circumstances.
Percy Green has been a notable face in the civil rights community since the 1960’s, when he went from being a gang member to civil rights activist.