Karns v. Shanahan, No. 16-2171 (3d Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Karns and Parker (Plaintiffs), evangelical Christian ministers, were preaching and carrying signs on the railway platform at NJ Transit's Princeton Junction Station. Parker had previously been informed that a permit was required to engage in noncommercial speech on NJ Transit property. Neither had a permit. NJ Transit Officers had been instructed that if they observed an individual engaging in non-commercial speech without a permit, an officer should explain the permitting rules and take “appropriate enforcement action” if the individual, aware of the requirement, continues to engage in non-commercial expression. In response to a dispatch call, officers approached Plaintiffs and informed them of the requirement. Parker responded that he had been preaching at the station for years without any permit. The officers then asked for identification. Parker produced an expired college identification card. Karns refused to provide identification. The officers arrested Plaintiffs for obstruction and defiant trespass. Karns was acquitted. Parker’s defiant trespass conviction was reversed. Plaintiffs filed complaints, alleging violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. NJ Transit is an arm of the state, entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity for itself and the officers in their official capacities. The officers, as individuals. were entitled to qualified immunity on claims of selective enforcement and retaliation, and had probable cause to believe that Plaintiffs were engaged in criminal trespass.