In 2011, a seventh-grader (known as F.M. in court documents) was interrupting his gym class with fake burps. The antics were amusing his classmates, and his teacher was struggling to maintain control of the class. She called for backup, in the form of a police officer assigned to the school.
According to court documents, Officer Arthur Acosta arrived on the scene, and asked F.M. to come with him. The boy complied. Then Officer Acosta informed F.M. that he would be arresting him for the disruptions. F.M. was handcuffed and taken to a juvenile detention center, where he spent about an hour. He also received a one-day suspension from school following the incident.
F.M.'s mother, referred to in court documents as A.M., filed a lawsuit against two school officials and the police officer, alleging that her son's civil rights were violated by the arrest and the use of handcuffs. The complaint said that the defendants "should have known that burping was not a crime" and that "no force was necessary" in assisting with the arrest.
The appeals court's ruling drew a sharp dissent from then-Judge Neil Gorsuch just six months before he was picked for the Supreme Court vacancy.
The mother featured Gorsuch's dissent prominently in her appeal to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch said arresting a "class clown" for burping was going "a step too far."
Justices typically are recused from cases they heard before joining the court, and Gorsuch had no role in considering the case when it came before the high court.