The Supreme Court may consider a reversal on lower court decisions in an unusual case involving personal lawsuits against government officials.
The case revolves around a 2016 incident at Dulles National Airport between airline pilot James Linlor and TSA agent Michael Gerard Polson, who is alleged to have purposely struck Linlor with force in his groin during a security pat-down.
Right to sue
Linlor attempted to sue Polson over the incident, but lower courts have ruled that Polson, as an agent of the government, is protected from liability for his actions by the principle of qualified immunity.
Those lower court losses have compelled Linlor to petition the Supreme Court to hear his case and decide whether Polson is truly immune from lawsuits or not.
“Since no amount of striking force against a passenger’s testicles is possibly reasonable nor proscribed in TSA procedures, [Mr. Polson‘s] striking of [Mr. Linlor‘s] testicles
Airline pilot vs. TSA agent
In 2016, while Linlor was at the time also a cybersecurity consultant for the federal government, he was stopped for inspection in a security line at Dulles airport by TSA screener Polson.
By virtue of his consultant work, Linlor possessed several sensitive data cards for access to classified systems, which were not to be removed from Linlor’s presence, per federal guidelines.
Linlor said Polson became angry that he had to waste time by summoning a supervisor, so once everything was checked out and Linlor was asked to spread his legs for a pat-down, Polson allegedly laughed and intentionally “karate-chopped” Linlor in the crotch as retribution.
Linlor said the act was witnessed by other agents who refused to apologize, and on which police refused to take action.
Linlor said that the damage from that blow was so severe that it required surgery in 2018.
Huge ramifications for “qualified immunity”
The Supreme Court will reportedly hold a discussion on April 26 about whether they will take the case or not. The Justice Department, which represents Polson in the matter, has declined to comment on the case.
Should the high court hear this case and ultimately rule in Linlor’s favor, that ruling could quite possibly strike down, or at least greatly weaken, the qualified immunity protection from lawsuits that government agents enjoy, and sometimes exploit, to get away with actions for which regular citizens would be prosecuted.