Court Rules Arrest of Teen Who Was Burping in Class Was Justified

The unnamed New Mexico boy was 13 when he was cuffed and hauled to juvenile detention after distracting a class with burps.

A court has ruled that the arrest of a New Mexico boy who burped repeatedly during a middle school gym class was warranted.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Monday ruled that the officer and principals named in the lawsuit are entitled to immunity, the AP reports.

The boy's mother sued following the May 2011 arrest, which she argued was unlawful and resulted in excessive force.

The boy was 13 at the time of the incident at Albuquerque's Cleveland Middle School. In a physical education class, the school said instructor Margaret Mines-Hornbeck sent the boy into the hallway after he repeatedly made students laugh with fake burp sounds.

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The school said the boy continued burping and leaning into the entrance to the classroom so the students could hear.

The school resource officer named in the suit, Arthur Acosta, was then summoned by the teacher. Acosta took the boy to the office before cuffing him and finally hauling him to a juvenile detention center where he sat for an hour before his mother arrived.

"At worst, [the boy] was being a class-clown and engaged in behavior that would have subjected generations of school boys to an after-school detention, writing lines, or a call to his parents," the mother's attorneys said in a complaint.

However, on Monday the court ruled the arrest was justified under a New Mexico law that prohibits anyone from interfering with the educational process.

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In his 94-page ruling, Judge Jerome Holmes wrote, "put simply, qualified immunity protects 'all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.'"

In his brief dissent, 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch invoked Oliver Twist, notes Courthouse News.

"Often enough the law can be 'a ass — a idiot,' Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist 520 (Dodd, Mead & Co. 1941) (1838) — and there is little we judges can do about it, for it is (or should be) emphatically our job to apply, not rewrite, the law enacted by the people's representatives. Indeed, a judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels. So... I admire my colleagues today, for no doubt they reach a result they dislike but believe the law demands — and in that I see the best of our profession and much to admire. It's only that, in this particular case, I don't believe the law happens to be quite as much of a ass as they do. I respectfully dissent."

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