Free Speech

Free as a Bird: Showing Middle Finger to Police Officer = Constitutionally Protected Speech

Every reasonable officer should know that, says the Sixth Circuit.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From today's Cruise-Gulyas v. Minard:

Officer Matthew Minard pulled over Debra Cruise-Gulyas for speeding. He wrote her a ticket for a lesser violation, known as a non-moving violation. As she drove away, apparently ungrateful for the reduction, she made an all-too-familiar gesture at Minard with her hand and without four of her fingers showing. That did not make Minard happy. He pulled her over again and changed the ticket to a moving violation—a speeding offense and what counts as a more serious violation of Michigan law. Because Cruise-Gulyas did not break any law that would justify the second stop and at most was exercising her free speech rights, we affirm the district court's order denying Officer Minard's Civil Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings….

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  1. Free as a bird…with wallet light as a feather after litigating the case up to the federal Sixth Circuit.

    1. She will likely get attorney’s fees, which will then be reimbursed by his department.

      1. Oh, good for her, then.

      2. Actually, reimbursed by the taxpayers.
        What a wonderful world if the members of the offending department actually paid the costs of their misadventures.

  2. Wow. A rare case where Qualified Immunity does not apply!

    1. From the opinion: “While these [prior] cases are not factually identical, they establish clear, specific principles that answer the questions this case asks. ”

      Let’s hope that kind of reasoning continues.

      1. Hasn’t the Sixth Circuit been vulnerable to reversal on Qualified Immunity cases recently? I’m not saying I disagree with them – I actually think precedent says this is the standard, but I also think the Supreme court has been slowly moving towards an almost AEDPA style restrictive rule.

  3. “And this bird you cannot tase!”

    1. Even if it was a sharp dressed man!

  4. Even a free bird can’t win a head on collision with a tree.

  5. Reminds me of a Sheriff’s Deputy who was able to articulate a clever reason for ticketing a motorist who flipped him the bird:

    Driver: “You can’t write me for flipping you off. I’m not signing that.”

    Deputy: “Correct. How-some-ever, this is not a ticket for flipping me off. You extended your left arm horizontally out of the drivers side window.”


    “So, anyone who passed Drivers Education should know that an extended left arm is a signal for a left turn. You failed to turn left.”

    1. “You failed to turn left”

      That’s not a traffic violation. Turning left without signaling is.

  6. I cannot post a link, but an article in the Detroit News says that a Corporal Matthew Minard of the Taylor, MI police force was suspended in February, apparently as part of an FBI investigation into corruption in the mayor’s office. The officer in this case is a Matthew Wayne Minard of the Taylor, MI police force.

    The same person?

    1. Detroit News link is here.

      That’s a unique enough name in a small enough town that I’d be shocked if it weren’t the same person.

  7. Hopefully our inalienable right to make other obscene gestures will soon be vindicated in other forums. A moment of pride for all Americans.

  8. This has been known since the fine leadership example of Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew.

    1. Yet another nattering nabob of negativism.

      1. What pusillanimous pussyfooting.

        1. Another hopeless, hysterical, hypochondriac of history.

  9. It would be interesting to know if Debra Cruise-Gulyas is Hungarian by blood or by marriage. The former would be consistent with her flipping the bird to cops on general principle.

  10. I recall a decision by Judge Kozinski which held that we have the right to tell police to go fuck themselves and yet PC25850(b) says we do not have the right to assert our Fourth Amendment right which Governor Newsom and AG Becerra are still defending as did Governor Brown and AG Harris who preceded them.

  11. Some years ago a bill was proposed in Wisconsin to make the middle-finger salute to a cop an assault. Thankfully it failed as far as I know.

  12. How was the second pull-over not count as filing a false report on a non-crime, the second pull-over and charge change being based on vengeful malice?

    1. edit: How does the second …

    2. Or unlawful detention?

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