Sunday, June 17, 2018

Police Misinformation To Parents Did Not Violate Their Religious Exercise Rights

Estate of Manolios v. Wickersham, (ED MI, June 13, 2018), is a suit against Macomb County, Michigan sheriff and police officers alleging numerous constitutional violations in their investigation of a fatal car accident.  The primary allegation was that authorities wrongfully identified Jonathan Manolios as the driver in order to protect the true driver who was a family friend of one of the investigating police officers. Among  the numerous allegations in the lawsuit was the following:
After the accident, Jonathan Manolios’ parents asked Defendants where their son’s body was found in relation to the crash scene. According to Plaintiffs, they sought this information because their religious beliefs required them to memorialize the location. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Kennedy initially refused to provide this information, but then inaccurately identified the location...
The court dismissed this claim, saying:
... [T]he most that can be said of Kennedy’s alleged misconduct is that it failed to aid Plaintiffs in the practice of their religion. Plaintiffs did not know where Jonathon’s body was found after the accident regardless of what Kennedy did or did not do. As such, Plaintiffs could not have followed their religious obligation to memorialize that location even if Kennedy never provided the incorrect location.
In short, Plaintiffs identify no clearly establish law that would inform a reasonable official that the type of conduct alleged here violated Plaintiffs’ right to freely exercise their religion. For these reasons, the Court holds that Plaintiffs fail to state a viable First Amendment violation claim.