The Supreme Court announced Tuesday it wouldn’t hear an appeal from an Ohio man, who tried to sue his local police department after he was arrested and jailed for poking fun at them on Facebook.
Anthony Novak had asked the Supreme Court to rule that his First Amendment rights trump qualified immunity for law enforcement, but the justices without comment refused to take up the petition.
In 2016, he created a Facebook parody page of the Parma, Ohio, Police Department.
The page looked nearly identical to the police department’s real Facebook page, but it did not have the verified blue check mark.
In a series of about a half dozen posts, Mr. Novak suggested the department was racist and lacked compassion. He took the account down after it was online for only about 12 hours because the police threatened an investigation during a news interview. The department said people were confusing the posts with real law enforcement information.
“Nearly a month after Novak had deleted the parody account, police arrested him, searched his apartment, seized his phone and laptop, and jailed him for four days,” read his court papers, which were filed in September at the high court, asking the justices to consider his case.
He was charged with violating an Ohio law making it a felony to “interrupt” or “disrupt” law enforcement using a computer. Mr. Novak, though, was found not guilty by a jury.
After being cleared of criminal wrongdoing at his trial, Mr. Novak sued the city claiming its police department upended his First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights.
But the lower courts ruled the officers were protected by qualified immunity, a doctrine that protects government workers from facing civil liability when acting in the course of their duties.
The high court’s move to reject Mr. Novak’s appeal leaves the lower court ruling in place.
“I’m disappointed the Supreme Court won’t consider my case both because I won’t be able to hold the officers accountable for their violation of my rights, but also because I worry about what will happen to others who poke fun at the powerful,” said Mr. Novak. “The government shouldn’t be able to arrest you for making a joke at its expense.”