Courthouse Steps Decision: Determining Finality for Pursuing Liability: The Implications of Thompson v. Clark

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In Thompson v. Clark, the plaintiff sought to bring a civil suit claiming he was the victim of a wrongful seizure after police allegedly entered his apartment without a warrant based on unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse. Thompson was charged with resisting arrest amid the warrantless raid, but prosecutors subsequently elected to drop this criminal case. The question that then arose was whether this result, though short of a formal exoneration, was sufficient to meet the requirement that there be a favorable conclusion of the criminal case against Thompson before he could pursue his civil suit. In this discussion, attorneys for amici on both sides will explore which justices got it right and the implications of this ruling in future cases for prosecutors, defendants, and civil litigants.


Thompson v. Clark was decided on April 4 with the Supreme Court holding Larry Thompson’s showing that his criminal prosecution ended without a conviction satisfies the requirement to demonstrate a favorable termination of a criminal prosecution in a Fourth Amendment claim under Section 1983 for malicious prosecution. The majority rejected the dissenting view that an affirmative indication of innocence should be required. Justice Kavanaugh delivered the 6-3 opinion of the Court. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Thomas and Gorsuch joined.


  • Vincent Stark, Bureau Chief, Legal Affairs Unit, Albany County District Attorney's Office
  • Marie Miller, Attorney, Institute for Justice
  • Moderator: Marc Levin, Chief Policy Counsel, Council on Criminal Justice and Senior Advisor, Right on Crime


As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.