Ricci v. Village of Arlington Heights
Decided on May 4, 1998; 523 US 613


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed:  Criminal justice (4th Amendment), search and seizure, judicial power

B. Legal Question Presented:

May police officers arrest someone without a warrant for a violation of a fine-only ordinance (i.e. operating a business without a license)?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

Petitioner Randall Ricci owns a telemarketing business. After the Arlington Heights police department determined that Ricci lacked the required business license and that one of Ricci's employees had an outstanding warrant, officers went to Ricci’s business to arrest the employee. While arresting the employee, the officers also searched Ricci's business papers without a warrant.

Subsequently, Ricci was arrested for violating the Village of Arlington Heights Code of Ordinances, which makes it unlawful to operate a business without a license. Ricci filed a claim that the officers violated his civil rights by subjecting him to a full custodial arrest for committing a fine-only offense. The District Court dismissed the claim.

The Court of Appeals rejected Ricci's argument that a full custodial arrest for violation of a fine-only ordinance is constitutionally permissible only if the violation involves a breach of the peace-and therefore found the arrest reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

The US Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Kenneth N. Flaxman argued the case and filed the brief for Petitioner. David A. Strauss argued the case for Respondent; with him on the brief was Jeffrey Edward Kehl.
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. by Susan N. Herman, Steven R. Shapiro, Harvey Grossman, and Stephen J. Schulhofer; for Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, Inc. by Wayne W. Schmidt, James P. Manak, and Bernard J. Farber; and for the Institute for Justice by William H. Mellor, Clint Bolick, and Scott G. Bullock.
Patricia A. Millett argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. On the brief were Solicitor General Waxman, Acting Assistant Attorney General Keeney, Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben, and William C. Brown.

Richard Ruda and James I. Crowley filed a brief for the National League of Cities et al. as amici curiae urging affirmance.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

The case was dismissed. Although the Court granted certiorari upon hearing oral arguments, the Court unanimously voted to dismiss the case as improvidently granted. The Court can dismiss petitions that are “improvidently granted” for many reasons including when the question that is granted certiorari is not presented with sufficient clarity. In this case the Court was confused as to what exactly Petitioner was seeking (i.e. a ruling that applied to civil and criminal fine-only crimes or only civil fine-only crimes).
Justice Vote: 0 Pro vs. 9 Con
Per curiam (by the court) decision. No individual authorship of decision.

  • Rehnquist, W. Con
  • Stevens, J. Con
  • O'Connor, S. Con
  • Scalia, A. Con 
  • Kennedy, A. Con
  • Thomas, C. Con
  • Souter, D. Con
  • Ginsburg, R. Con
  • Breyer, S. Con
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU filed a brief as amicus curiae urging reversal but the case was dismissed. No judgement was made, giving the ACLU an apparent loss.