The Third Amendment Case You've Been Waiting For

We don’t hear much about the Constitution’s Third Amendment. Thankfully, the forced quartering of soldiers never became as big a problem as the Framers apparently feared it would be. In fact, the best we an tell, the Supreme Court has never heard a case that directly involved the Third Amendment, and there’s been only one federal appeals court decision on the amendment.

But Third Amendment scholars – if there is such a thing – are focusing their attention on a recently filed lawsuit in Henderson, Nevada. The case involves the actions of a SWAT team from the Henderson Police Department. The lawsuit alleges the local police contacted the Mitchell family by phone to demand access to their house. They wanted a “tactical advantage” while responding to a domestic violence report on one of the Mitchell’s neighbors.

The Mitchells, not wanting to get involved, refused to abandon their house or let the police in. That’s when things got nasty. The SWAT team came to their house anyway, knocked down the front door with a ram – without a warrant, mind you – and shot “pepperballs” at Anthony Mitchell and the family’s female dog, Sam. Anthony and his son were arrested for obstruction of justice, though the criminal charges were later dropped.

The civil suit alleges the forced occupation of their home by the SWAT team violates the Third Amendment’s forced quartering prohibition.

Considering the Third Amendment generates so little litigation, it’s difficult to predict the case’s outcome. The Mitchells have at least a couple of uphill battles. First, the Third Amendment applies to “soldiers.” They would need to convince the judge that the local police department, or a least a highly armed SWAT team from the local force, qualifies as “soldiers.” Second, they would need to prove they were being forced to “quarter” the police. “Quarter[ing]” would seem to imply an extended intrusion in the home; it’s doubtful the Henderson police intended to stay in the Mitchell’s home much longer than a few hours.

Check back here for updates on the progress of the case. In the meantime, remember – Babcock Partners, LLC are your Louisiana Third Amendment attorneys!