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On March 11, 2022, United States District Court Judge Lisa G. Wood rejected the Camden County Sheriff Office’s qualified immunity defenses and held that claims asserted on behalf of Mrs. Emma Jane Prospero for First Amendment retaliation, malicious prosecution, and deliberate indifference in hiring may proceed through discovery. Mrs. Prospero is represented by the University of Georgia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic, directed by Clinical Assistant Professor Clare R. Norins.

Read the Court’s decision.

The case arises from a 2018 phone call that Mrs. Prospero made to Camden County 911, reporting persistent gunshots near her home. In retaliation for Mrs. Prospero’s protected speech, Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Sullivan swore out an arrest warrant affidavit, falsely accusing her of intending to interfere with 911 services. Mrs. Prospero was arrested in January 2019 and spent more than 36 hours detained in the Camden County Jail under health-harming and degrading conditions. Nine months later the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute and dismissed the charge.

Unpersuaded by the Camden County Sheriff Office’s motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds, the court wrote: “[T]he accusation here is that Plaintiff called 911 for the purpose of disrupting emergency service. But viewing the facts in her favor, she herself called 911 just one time, for a total of two and a half minutes, complaining about noisy gunfire and asking the police to make it stop. . . Drawing those inferences in her favor, any reasonable officer would have known these were material misstatements” that the Deputy Sheriff made in his warrant affidavit.

Discovery in the case now moves forward.

Congratulations to Clinic students Jack Mahon, Paige Medley, and Brianna Yates for their work on the brief opposing the Sheriff’s Office’s motion to dismiss.

Their many contributions to this case during the Fall 2021 semester was recognized by receipt of the Clinical Legal Education Association’s “Outstanding Clinic Team” award to students at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Additional information about the case is available here.