Supreme Court Restricts More Rights

The Supreme Court issued opinions and orders today. Among them:

  • Ruled that a man wrongly convicted and sent to prison for 24 years cannot sue the former Los Angeles district attorney and his chief deputy for violating his civil rights. The court said unanimously that decisions of supervising prosecutors, like the actions of prosecutors at trial, are shielded from civil lawsuits.
  • Ruled that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.

Among the cases it agreed to hear: [More...]

  • * Agreed to clarify how long a suspected criminal's request for a lawyer during police interrogation should be valid. The court will hear the state of Maryland's appeal of a decision throwing out child molester Michael Shatzer's confession. Shatzer asked for a lawyer almost three years before admitting to the abuse.
  • Agreed to decide whether a judge's order to a litigant to turn over material claimed to be covered by attorney-client privilege can be immediately appealed to a higher court.
  • Agreed to decide whether there was enough evidence to convict a man of sexual assault. Prosecutors say the appeals court used new evidence, discounted old evidence and resolved legal questions in light most favorable to the suspect.

ScotusBlog has more and links to the orders and opinions.

< Three Agencies Failed to Appoint Required Civil Liberties Overseers | 5th Circuit Grants Reprieve in Texecution of Possible Innocent >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    put down the kool aid and take off the tin hats (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by bocajeff on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:37:19 AM EST
    The ruling regarding suing the prosecutor was UNANIMOUS which means even Ginsburg agreed.

    Of course it was... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:46:31 AM EST
    they are all lawyers after all...looking out for their own, justice be damned.

    Now if we could somehow get 9 potheads on the big bench, half my gripes would likely disappear:)


    What Makes You THink (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by squeaky on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:27:14 PM EST
    That they aren't toking up. Do you think that they all practice what they preach?

    Good point.... (none / 0) (#21)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:35:32 PM EST
    The one and only Hunter S. Thompson did write of a wild drug and booze filled chance encounter with Clarence Thomas in "Kingdom of Fear". It was too wild for me to believe...but you never know.

    One way to find out...24/7 surveillance of the justices.  The way they rule I doubt they would mind:)


    More rulings like this, (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by SeeEmDee on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:21:59 PM EST
    and you may as well learn Mandarin.

    More lessons in why it is so important to heavily scrutinize each and every appointee to every judicial posting, not just the ones of national prominence. Too many Statist moles toiling away in dreaming up newer encroachments upon our already tattered rights. Any more like this, and the Militia nuts will be vindicated.  

    I guess the unwritten rule... (4.00 / 1) (#1)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:31:43 AM EST
    that the police can frisk you whenever they damn well please is now an official written rule.  How wonderful.

    Duck and cover people...our employees have declared war on us.  

    We still have choice (none / 0) (#3)
    by SOS on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:34:14 AM EST
    Choice of which brand toothpaste we can buy or booze we can drown reality out with.

    It's not "whenever they please" (none / 0) (#10)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 12:02:13 PM EST
    You have to be a passenger in the car with the driver that got pulled over for a violation.  There's nothing wrong with cops making sure a passenger isn't carrying a gun.  Our "employees" have to be able to protect themselves from criminals packing weapons, and frisking the passengers does that.  And we all know that drivers hand drugs, guns and other illegal items to passengers in the car to hold when they're pulled over, sometimes even getting kids to take the stuff so the driver won't get caught.  

    We always have to balance personal freedoms and restrictions.  We live in a society where people use guns to steal and kill.  We have enormous social problems because people become addicted to substances that destroy their lives.  This isn't just about personal freedom and the right to smoke pot if you feel like it.  The solution to end the war on drugs is to make specific drugs legal, not to prevent law enforcement from catching people breaking the law.  Too many of our "employees" get shot while pulling over cars.  Frisking the passengers will keep more of them alive.


    My version of the (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by eric on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:04:57 PM EST
    Constitution does not have anything in it about cops frisking people without any suspicion.  Rather, I see something about having to get a warrant before they do that.  When it comes to balancing freedoms and restrictions, I think the founders got it right.

    The Supremes.. (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:11:33 PM EST
    must be using a different, top-secret version of the Constitution to come up with these rulings.

    That or they know their stately robes will save them from ever being frisked if their chauffer gets pulled over...to hell with us and our liberty.


    They do have to have a reasonable suspicion (none / 0) (#23)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:46:11 PM EST
    "To justify a patdown of the driver or a passenger during a traffic stop, however, just as in the case of a pedestrian reasonably suspected of criminal activity, the police must harbor reasonable suspicion that the person subjected to the frisk is armed and dangerous."

    There has to be a balance that allows cops to protect themselves.  


    ok, so if it is about saftey (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Jlvngstn on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 02:36:59 PM EST
    and you get no argument for me on the safety issue, could we then say that anything other than a weapon should be completely ignored?  Say the passenger is holding some weed or ex or heroin.  Since the bill is about safety and not creating a greater strain on our legal and incarceration systems which are expensive and overcrowded at every level; than any thing other than a weapon should be returned to its rightful owner.  

    Taking away the worry that comes with holding dope and doing time will make a lot less people upset about being frisked.

    I don't like it at all, but let's be sensible, until we have some modifications to our legal system that recognizes the differences between non-violent and violent criminals, we should at least try to prevent more over-burdening the system and racial profiling accusations (founded or unfounded it will no doubt become a significant issue) that will go along with it.  


    We should decriminalize certain drugs, (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 03:20:54 PM EST
    not tell cops to give illegal drugs back to criminals when they find them during frisking.  That's just nuts.  

    Look, I completely understand the concept of wanting personal freedom.  It sucks that we can drink ourselves silly but not smoke pot.  But I've seen both alcohol and pot negatively affect lives, and clearly other drugs do much worse damage.  I'm not invested in preventing personal freedom, but the laws are there to protect the rest of us, not just the thrill seeker.  I don't care if people kill themselves riding motorcycles without helmets, but when they don't die, we all have to pay for someone to hand feed them the rest of their lives.  I think if someone wants personal freedom to destroy their lives, they should take responsibility for the damage they do, not expect the rest of us to clean up their mess.  Since we aren't mean enough to desert them after the fact (and hopefully we never will be that callous), we use laws to minimize the impact of their foolishness on the rest of us, even it it's just keeping insurance claims lower.  

    I have a relative in jail in NY for being caught in a car with an illegal (non-registered) handgun.  There were three of them arrested, and two rolled over.  He got ten years or something and he'll probably serve four.  He swears up and down that it wasn't his gun, that the driver stuffed it under the seat when they were pulled over for "driving while black."  But I have to wonder why he was driving around in NYC at 3 a.m., hanging out with "friends" who carry an illegal handgun.  For people who don't want to get busted with drugs during a routine traffic stop, I'd say either don't carry your drugs in the car, or make d@mn sure your lights are working and the driver isn't speeding.  But don't tell cops they can't bust you when they find your stash, because that's exactly what we pay them to do, arrest people doing illegal acts.  Change the law, not the ability of law enforcement to catch criminals.


    Why is it nuts? (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Jlvngstn on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 03:33:48 PM EST
    is it about safety or not?

    They would be safer if people were not concerned about being arrested for failing to use their turn signal and a dime bag of weed etc.  

    Imagine the scene, "do you have any drugs on your possession?"  

    "yessir, here they are."

    "Any weapons?  No sir."

    "Mind if we search?"

    "It is illegal to possess a controlled substance, have a nice evening."

    "Thank you officer."

    no bullsheat arrests for minor possession, wasting taxpayer money for someone who was not committing a crime other that possession and failing to fix a burnt out signal bulb.


    Yeah, like my story above about the (none / 0) (#31)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 03:59:24 PM EST
    three guys pulled over for "driving while black."  Wah, we're being picked on because of our skin color.  Yet, lo and behold, one of them had an unregistered handgun.  Do you have any buddies who would bring a gun with them while you all drive around after midnight in NYC?  A little perspective is needed here.  

    Yes, some cops are bullies, or worse.  But many of them do a d@mn good job of keeping the dangerous jerks off the streets.  They still have to have a reason for frisking the driver and passengers.  Sorry I'm not on the bandwagon on this one, but in the end, I want cops to have the tools they need to protect me and my kids.  After all, we're asking them to risk their lives every time they pull someone over.  If you don't want to get busted for pot in a routine traffic stop, don't carry pot around.  But for g-d's sake, don't tell cops they have to give illegal drugs back to criminals.  


    for gods sake (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Jlvngstn on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 04:22:36 PM EST
    answer the question, is it about safety or increasing arrest statistics?

    I have a wife and a family also, and unlike you despite our commonalities, concerned citizen, voter, etc, I do not believe I am safer with them frisking passengers.  

    I think what you get is selective enforcement and increased arrests for narcotics costing the US taxpayers a considerable amount of money and tying up resources that should be used for violent offenders.  

    It is not about safety, it is about diminishing rights under the fallacy of safety for the rest of us.  Ignoring personal use possession would go a long way in bridging the difference between safety which we all agree is good, and selective enforcement which some of us find repugnant.


    O.K. I got it, but.... (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by NYShooter on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 05:33:45 PM EST
    Let's talk a little about how things are vs. how they should be. You seem to be taking the time-worn position that, although there's "a few rotten apples," the majority of cops are stand-up, straight arrows. Also, that "the police MUST harbor reasonable suspicion......." [Emphasis added]............Baloney!

    My son is a cop, my nephew is Trooper of the Year in NYS, and my in-laws are both retired city police officers. Let's not get into my uncles, five of who were NYC cops.

     Cops become cops for reasons that have nothing to do with "keeping our streets safe for friends and family." Psychiatrists and psychologists have known for a long time why certain people want to join police forces. (And yes, my father was a psychiatrist.) (Sorry for the catch-all phrase) but, "study after study has shown" that the psychological make-up of cops, and criminals, are virtually the same. As my father used to say, "They're all criminals, so society hires some to protect us from the others." I have sat through hundreds of family gatherings where the stories told (humorously, of course) of abuse, altercations, and provocations, by the cops, not the civilians, would curl the socks off of any civil libertarian. Yes, certainly, they also sometimes apprehend dangerous folks, but the price we pay for "making sure they have the tools" is letting them have their fun with us whenever, and wherever they want.

    What to do about it? I don't know, maybe better pre-hire testing.  But, the people authorized to stop you, shackle you, and lock you in a cage, are the same people who are exempt from the laws the rest of us must obey. When it comes to inviolate laws (other than the sun rising in the East) it's the "Blue Wall of Silence." Unless one assaults your daughter, to be a cop means "look the other way," as fellow Peacekeepers act out their criminal instincts. And, please, I know there are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

    I wish I had the answer; I don't, but I do know that the constant, decades old assault on our personal freedoms isn't it.


    Well said Shooter... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 05:46:30 PM EST
    it's what Perry and Murvin were on about.

    You're absolutely right there is not much we can do it about...except not codify it.  Which is exactly what the Supreme Court has been doing a helluva lot of lately.  At least when our code is lush with a respect for liberty free men and women have some recourse.


    Thanks for the vids (none / 0) (#36)
    by NYShooter on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 09:34:35 PM EST
    This whole subject really sucks. I'm torn every which way by it. In my last post, I told you what most cops are really like. But, damn! when a bad dude is burglarizing your house, or attacking a family member, the sound and sights of lights and sirens are music to the ear.

    I know one has nothing to do with the other, but pretending the subject is simply good guys vs. bad guys is sticking your head in the sand.

    If we have any hope of evolving into the society we all want for our kids, and theirs, take some of the money from our idiotic "war on drugs, and hold a national symposium on our entire law enforcement structure.


    I've always (none / 0) (#37)
    by eric on Tue Jan 27, 2009 at 12:41:25 PM EST
    tried to impress this upon people, "the police are not your friends".  The police worship in this country is off the charts yet most people don't even really know the cops.

    Slow the f*ck down (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by scarshapedstar on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 04:33:20 PM EST
    But don't tell cops they can't bust you when they find your stash, because that's exactly what we pay them to do, arrest people doing illegal acts.

    Okay? So if every single night, the cops banged on your door and searched your whole house for pot - along with everyone else's - would you feel better served?

    I'm aware that searching your house is a bit different from searching your car, because theoretically a cop has a reason to pull you over in the first place, but let's be real here: they can pull you over if they damn well please, search you, search your car, and if they find anything they will never have to offer an explanation as to why they pulled you over. That's what this ruling says. If they don't find anything, they can just say that you were weaving and drive off.

    As a white guy, I'm not really too worried about the cops, but I see where this leads. And I gotta say, I find your authoritarian attitude disturbing. I assure you that people you know are "criminals" who use "illegal drugs" and you have no idea because they don't harm anyone, or even themselves. The law is an ass, and the anti-pot laws in particular were drafted by racists and stepped up by Nixon. They weren't handed down by God, they were handed down by Satan. Why defend them?


    I'm not sure how they'd do that (none / 0) (#25)
    by jbindc on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 02:47:49 PM EST
    To use your example:

    Say the passenger is holding some weed or ex or heroin.

    This is actually a "plain view" argument, so the police could confiscate it.

    But, putting that aside, in a broader sense, using your example would make police ignore a situation where a crime is being committed in front of them (since it is illegal to possess heroin or weed). (You can argue whether these drugs should be legalized, but as of now, these drugs are illegal).


    I know the argument (none / 0) (#26)
    by Jlvngstn on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 03:02:00 PM EST
    but after all is this about officer safety or higher arrest records?  

    A dime bag of weed under your privates is hardly plain view.

    Police will inherently frisk more than they should and will inherently find narcotics or other (warrants etc).

    I believe the net out here will be selective enforcement, greater burden on our overtaxed legal/penal system, and I would argue perhaps an uptick in morons shooting at police.  Previously, when stopped for an infraction and everything checks out, driver leaves.  Now he is thinking, "if they frisk me I am going to jail for five years for a gun, or I can shoot my way out of this like i have seen on The Wire" (I miss ya cch)

    There is no way to stop selective enforcement and a very good way to increase safety and bridge understanding is to make the law really about safety.  Most people will respect that,.


    i get it (none / 0) (#28)
    by Jlvngstn on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 03:04:26 PM EST
    you thought i meant "holding" like in his or her hand, as opposed to "holding" by the slang definition.  I think of "holding" as the person having the narcotic in possession on their person.

    Safety is the excuse to tyrannize..... (none / 0) (#27)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 03:02:27 PM EST
    I don't know how anybody with a gun, a badge, a vest, and the authority of law could be all that worried about their safety.  If they are, and feel the need to frisk passengers during traffic stops...maybe a new line of work is in order.

    I mean...you think the roads in Connecticut are 16%, or 300 grand, safer than last year?  C'mon...it's never about safety, there is always an ulterior motive. To get in your pockets, and eventually to get in your wallet.


    That's the thing... (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 12:14:21 PM EST
    law enforcement is, imo, breaking the law in order to try and catch people who may or may not be breaking the law.  Though I guess the supremes decided they aren't breaking the law...so much for my liberal reading of the 4th amendment.

    And it surely is whenever they damn well please.  Sure, you can file a complaint when you get frisked for no reason, if you get off on wasting your time banging your head against a big blue wall.


    This was a ruling (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:15:34 PM EST
    about a case that originated in Dale County AL, I live in Coffee right next door.  They thought they had a warrant on some guy they pulled over as his vehicle was leaving the Sherrif's dept. I believe.  Turned out it wasn't the correct person but upon searching his vehicle they found meth.  This ruling now makes the evidence they found admissible because I guess the search was an "honest" mistake on the part of law enforcement.

    To bad (4.00 / 1) (#2)
    by SOS on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:32:09 AM EST
    things like this slip right under the radar of 99% of most Americans unnoticed.

    Heh (none / 0) (#6)
    by Wile ECoyote on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:44:07 AM EST
    see the BTD's post below on the NY senator and the mentions of gun control.  Seems people here would love to restrict rights.

    Sorry to burst (none / 0) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:16:22 PM EST
    your rhetoric filled bubble.

    How did you (none / 0) (#22)
    by Wile ECoyote on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:44:50 PM EST
    burst the bubble?  I think you forgot to include something in your post.

    And there is a gun (none / 0) (#18)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:20:21 PM EST
    involved as well in the Alabama case where they pulled the guy over with a warrant that they really thought they had but they didn't have.

    Why though (none / 0) (#5)
    by Saul on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:39:45 AM EST
    What was the rationale that SC used on why a person wrongly imprisoned cannot sue the DA for violating his civil rights.

    The way I look at it if you arrest me and prove your case and I am actually guilty of the crime with no recourse then I have to pay a penalty, either in money or prison or both and I am ok with that except if you arrest me and you did not win your case then apparently you the prosecutor was wrong to begin with and therefore you now have to pay a price for being wrong just like I had to if was wrong.

    I look at it the same... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:48:30 AM EST
    but we must remember that some animals are more equal than others.

    Accountability is for Joe and Jane Blow...not for the state.


    Probably made the decision (none / 0) (#9)
    by SOS on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:49:40 AM EST
    based upon . .  how long will the public's fury remain constrained while they hear about Wall Street executives buying $80,000 area rugs?

    You misread the 4th Amendment case (none / 0) (#12)
    by izihobip on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 12:20:19 PM EST
    You wrote:
    Ruled that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.
    But the court wrote (on page 2 of the slip opinion): "To justify a patdown of the driver or a passenger during a traffic stop, however, just as in the case of a pedestrian reasonably suspected of criminal activity, the police must harbor reasonable suspicion that the person subjected to the frisk is armed and dangerous."

    So it's the same as Terry - you need reasonable suspicion.

    "Reasonable suspicion"... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 12:26:07 PM EST
    In America, in 2009, we are all suspect.