Many of you will remember the story from earlier this year about the man with the Fourth Amendment written on his chest who filed a lawsuit against the TSA, alleging that he had been wrongfully detained after he stripped down to his running shorts at an airport security checkpoint. Now comes news that a federal judge has dismissed complaints against almost all defendants in the lawsuit.
For those coming late to this story, the plaintiff was going through airport security when he was directed to go through a full-body scanner. Before stepping into the scanner, he stripped off his shirt, revealing the Fourth Amendment text written in marker on his chest.
The TSA screener says she called for help when the passenger began disrobing. The man claims he was subsequently handcuffed and detained for about 90 minutes. He also alleges that he was told the police would make sure he had a “permanent criminal record as a result of his actions.”
Even so, the man was eventually able to board his flight after passing through security once more. And no charges against him were ever prosecuted.
The judge has dismissed the passenger’s claims against the Capital Region Airport Commission, several Richmond airport police officers, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA Administrator John Pistole.
“Plaintiff does not allege that [Napolitano and Pistole] were directly involved in any way in the events, nor does he allege any facts suggestive of deliberate indifference,” wrote the judge in his decision. He also found that the plaintiff’s claim that the alleged constituional violations are a result of screening guidelines “is not a reasonable inference.”
While the judge says “it was eminently reasonable for [the screeners] to seek assistance from the police,” when the man began to disrobe, he did leave open the possibility the lawsuit could proceed against the screeners in a personal capacity.
Explains the judge:
The question is whether the TSOs in fact radioed for assistance because of the message plaintiff sought to convey… Because plaintiff’s unrebutted claim facially states a cause of action, the question of qualified immunity must await further discovery.
DHS Off the Hook for Airport Screening Snafu [Courthousenews.com]