CHEYENNE — Wyoming joined five other states Monday in filing a legal brief in support of two Secret Service agents who arrested a man who confronted former Vice President Dick Cheney in 2006.
The brief asks a federal appeals court to overturn a three-judge panel ruling last month allowing Steven Howards of Golden, Colo., to proceed in a lawsuit against the agents who arrested him at a Colorado mall after he touched Cheney on the arm and told him his Iraq War policies were “disgusting.” Charges against Howards were later dropped.
In his lawsuit, Howards claims Secret Service agents Virgil D. “Gus” Reichle Jr. and Dan Doyle violated his First Amendment right to free speech. Howards’ attorneys hope to subpoena Cheney as a witness.
Defense attorneys, however, argue the law gives Secret Service agents immunity from prosecution when making split-second decisions while protecting the president and vice president.
On Monday, Wyoming signed to an amicus brief filed by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in support of that argument.
“If allowed to stand, the panel majority’s decision will have a chilling effect on Secret Service agents,” the brief states.
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South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming and Vermont also joined the amicus brief, which are often submitted in court cases by outside parties simply to volunteer their opinions on the cases.
The U.S. Department of Justice also filed a similar, but separate, brief in the case Monday.
Wyoming Attorney General Greg Phillips said Wyoming joined the brief out of a concern for the principle of “qualified immunity” for law enforcement.
He dismissed any suggestion that Wyoming weighed in out of support for Cheney, who served as Wyoming’s congressman for 10 years and has perhaps been the state’s most famous resident.
“It’s beyond Cheney - it’s the principle of law,” Phillips said.