Warrant to search everyone for drugs at church-sponsored concert is invalid

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

Church of Universal Love and Music v. Fayette County(WD PA, Aug. 31, 2012), is a suit for damages claiming violations of the 1st and 4th Amendment in the execution of a warrant allowing the search of “all persons present” at a concert on the property of the Church of Universal Love and Music. (See prior related posting.)  Finding that the warrant was invalid, the court said that even though there was widespread drug use on the property, “the affidavit tendered to the issuing judge did not set forth reasonable grounds to believe that all persons on the premises at the time were engaged in criminal activity, or that the premises were dedicated to criminal activity.” However, the court said this does not establish liability because of various defenses asserted. The court found that insofar as personal capacity claims are being asserted, two of the officers have qualified immunity. However the prosecutor does not have absolute prosecutorial immunity for his activities as lead coordinator of the county drug task force. The court also refused to dismiss plaintiffs’ Monell claim against the county that alleged a policy of harassing the church. Defendants did not seek dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims of retaliation based on First Amendment free exercise, free speech, and free association.