First Circuit Upholds Legality of Arrest, Ban of UNH Professor

By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. on December 22, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Parking tickets may be tiny squares of paper placed under your windshield, but they have the powerful potential of turning a great day into a terrible one.

For University of New Hampshire professor John Collins, receiving a parking ticket got him so rankled it resulted in him "unleashing an expletive-filled tirade" against a fellow professor in 2007 for reporting his car. The tirade then resulted in him getting arrested by UNH authorities, being banned from campus, and losing his department chair position - turning a bad situation into a worse one.

Although the charges were eventually dismissed, Collins sued UNH officials for false arrest, defamation and violation of his due process rights. The lower court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all three counts, and, on Monday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the legality of his arrest.

The lower court found that the officers had probable cause for an arrest warrant on both charges and the arrest was valid under New Hampshire law. Further, since Collins' due process rights were not violated because he was suspended with pay (for the most part), the ban was temporary and subject to exceptions, and he was given notice, and the opportunity to argue against, losing his department chair position.

Finally, the defendants had the right to send statements publicizing the incident since they sent them in good faith to warn the general public given his outburst.

The First Circuit agreed with the lower court's analysis on all charges.

One parking infraction kicked off a chain of events that likely cost the tenured, associate biology professor hundreds of dollars in legal fees and several years of legal battles. Never underestimate the rage-inducing power of a parking ticket.

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