Tuesday, June 21, 2016

And starring Sonya Sotomayor as The Voice

The voice of freedom, of conscience ... the liberal lion on the SCOTUS roared yesterday.

"It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny," she wrote. "For generations, black and brown parents have given their children 'the talk' -- instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger -- all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. 
"By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time," she added. "It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged."

Co-starring the Five as The Police State.

In a 5-3 decision Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police have the right to detain anyone without cause and then arrest them on the spot if that person has an outstanding warrant.

For you budding constitutionalists out there, that is the direct opposite of what the Fourth Amendment guarantees.  Is this a conservative court or a fascist one?

In Monday’s ruling on the Utah vs. Strieff case, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, and Chief Justice John Roberts, argued that a police officer who randomly detains someone on the street without cause is not violating the rights of that detainee if they run their identification, find an outstanding warrant for a past offense, arrest them, and proceed to charge them with additional crimes based on what they find in a search. Any evidence found as part of such a search is now admissible in court.

So even if police violate the Constitution by stopping someone without suspicion, an arrest warrant entitles them to conduct a search.  In that circumstance, five justices said there is no "flagrant police misconduct."  Nina Totenberg at NPR:

The decision came in the case of Edward Strieff who was stopped after leaving a house that was under police observation because of an anonymous tip that it was being used for drug dealing. Though narcotics detective Douglas Fackrell later admitted he had no reason to believe Strieff had done anything wrong, he stopped him demanded that he identify himself and detained him while radioing in to see if there were any outstanding warrants against Strieff.

As it turned out, there was one for a minor traffic offense, so the detective searched Strieff and found a small amount of methamphetamines. The Utah Supreme Court later threw out the drug conviction because it stemmed from an illegal stop. Today, however, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the conviction. Writing for the five-justice majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said that officer Fackrell's discovery of the outstanding warrant broke the connection to the unconstitutional stop. And that therefore the evidence found in the search could be used to prosecute Strieff. The generally liberal Justice Stephen Breyer provided the fifth vote to make a majority. 

I have to say that I'm stunned.  Not so much by Kennedy Breyer's fifth vote (thanks for the correction, Gadfly), but by all of the rest of the Supreme conservatives.  There's no life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to be found in this decision.  And it's not law and order, it's extending your local po-po a few more liberties as judge, jury, and executioner.

The decision was controversial because in some cities thousands of people have arrest warrants pending against them, mostly for traffic violations as insignificant as unpaid parking tickets.
There were 16,000 outstanding arrest warrants in Ferguson, Mo., as of 2015 — a figure that amounts to roughly 75% of the city’s population — the Justice Department found during its investigation into the 2014 police shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old African-American man. Cincinnati recently had more than 100,000 warrants pending for failure to appear in court. New York City has 1.2 million outstanding warrants.

If you have a traffic ticket that you haven't paid, you have created probable cause to be arrested for something else.  Do you feel safer now?

With four major decisions due in the next week, including cases on affirmative action, abortion and immigration, Sotomayor's anger signals that what has been a quiet term since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia could get increasingly contentious.  

And three of the eight remaining decisions due are Texas cases.  Summer is about to get a lot hotter.  If some of you people living in swing states feel like the whole Supreme Court argument suddenly works for you, here's your hall pass.  And along that note, Quinnipiac's fresh polling suggests that Ohio and Pennsylvania still are, bur Florida may not be.

A lot of food for thought this morning.


Gadfly said...

I thought the 'fifth vote' was Breyer's, not Kennedy's. You know, a Dem appointee. Helps undercut the 'oh the Scotus' of 'my Dems right or wrong' types.

PDiddie said...

Yes indeed. I will correct the original.

Gadfly said...

I amended my link to you, but you gave me the perfect set-up (I was going to do something like this anyway) http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-fifth-vote-was-breyer-and-dont.html

PDiddie said...

Well that was cute.

I try to give people credit where and when it is due for doing the right thing. I've even done said so when Republicans trip over the right thing. I typically don't consider people's body of work until they retire or pass away. Just not so skeptical as to diminish the good works with a fair and balanced 'but...'

And I think you read too much into the framing part. I mistook Kennedy for Breyer, an uncareful non-edit that my rush out the door yesterday didn't allow me to correct before you did.