9th Circuit Okays Use of Taser on Pregnant Woman

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today said it's okay for police to taser a woman who is 7 months pregnant three times because she refused to sign a traffic ticket.

Here's the opinion (pdf). First the facts, as outlined in the dissent:

Malaika Brooks, a pregnant mother, as she was driving her son to school one day: Two, soon three, police officers surrounded her. The officers thought she was speeding in a school zone; she says she was not. Brooks provided her identification when asked, so there was no doubt who she was or where to find her. The officers wrote her a ticket but she refused to sign it. Refusing to sign a speeding ticket was at the time a nonarrestable misdemeanor;now, in Washington, it is not even that. Brooks had no weapons and had not harmed or threatened to harm a soul.

Although she had told the officers she was seven months pregnant, they proceeded to use a Taser on her, not once but three times, causing her to scream with pain and leaving burn marks and permanent scars.

What the majority said: [More...]

Other factors we have considered also weigh against finding a constitutional violation. The Officers gave multiple warnings that a Taser would be used and explained its effects.... While the court may consider what the officers knew about a suspect’s health...the record indicates that, when the Officers discovered Brooks’s pregnancy, they took steps to employ a localized type of force away from her stomach. Brooks’s arrest was supported by probable cause under Washington law and the Officers’ use of force was in accordance with the SPD’s Use of Force Training Guideline.

...The Taser was used three times in this case, which constitutes a greater application of force than a single tasing. Nonetheless, in light of the totality of the circumstances, this does not push the use of force into the realm of excessive.

This is one of the most illogical, poorly reasoned court opinions I can recall in a long time.

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    That is just shocking (5.00 / 10) (#1)
    by Spamlet on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:19:54 AM EST
    It gives the police license to behave like bullies and authoritarian thugs. And it's giving a whole new look to what has been evolving as our very own home-grown police state.

    I wonder how long until this kind of police brutality is no longer shocking.

    I wonder if activists are going to be tased now (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 09:40:56 AM EST
    when they protest?

    Only peace activists (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Kimberley on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:55:44 AM EST
    Are to be shot on sight (by non-lethal means, of course).

    Well... (none / 0) (#34)
    by szielinski on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:01:35 PM EST
    I'd say... (5.00 / 6) (#16)
    by szielinski on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:40:14 AM EST
    I wonder how long until this kind of police brutality is no longer shocking.

    ...we've already arrived at the point where using a taser to bring to submission a pregnant woman for refusing to sign a traffic ticket is no longer shocking. Where, after all, is the nationwide revulsion over this?


    First they came... (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Rojas on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:47:53 AM EST
    I think we all know the rest.

    No revulsion because MSM won't inform the people (5.00 / 1) (#82)
    by Yes2Truth on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:49:08 PM EST

    "Where, after all, is the nationwide revulsion over this?"

    WHERE?  Just as the public doesn't know that 9/11 was an inside job, that the Anthrax case was also, that the Ft. Hood incident was a covert operation,
    that when OBL speaks these days, it is from six feet down inside his narrow cell, and on and on...

    As the great William Greider asked in the title of one of his books:  "Who Will Tell The People?"

    Ignorant people can't be outraged about something they know not of.  The ruling class media obviously doesn't think it's in their interest
    for the public to realize how far down the road we are to a full-blown police state.  They know damn well that an aroused public might one day decide to use the only form of effective taser
    they can get their hands on:  PITCHFORKS.


    Many in this country are already (none / 0) (#103)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:56:27 PM EST
    supporting out of control police...they have been for a long time.

    The deputy caught attacking a 15 year old had his first trial ended in a hung jury. I would have thought the video would have been undeniable guilt. As it is, he was only charged with 4th degree assault.


    Let me get this straight (5.00 / 12) (#2)
    by cawaltz on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 04:27:09 AM EST
    in some places(SC 'm talking about you) if, while pregnant, a woman introduces elements to her body that are harmful to the fetus, she can be found guilty of child abuse, but a knucklehead in a uniform can subject her to repeated jolts of electricty when she poses no threat. Yeah, that tons of sense(tongue firmly in cheek).

    Like her stomach isn't attached (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by dkmich on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 06:10:37 AM EST
    to the rest of her?  Somebody needs to tell that fools where babies come from.

    What has happened to our country? (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by lentinel on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:20:43 AM EST
    The court says that because they warned her that they would taser her if she didn't sign, it was OK to do so?

    And because they didn't do it near her stomach, it was OK?

    Don't they know or care about physical and psychic trauma and the effect on a child in the womb?

    And I'll bet they are among those who express themselves about being concerned about the unborn.

    pregnancy notwithstanding (5.00 / 11) (#11)
    by Lil on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 09:16:32 AM EST
    Although particularly abhorrent because she was pregnant, I can't see that as the main issue. The issue to me is why in the world one would be tasered at all in this situation. Can this be appealed? I fear the ramifications on all civilians if this becomes precedent.

    That is what (5.00 / 3) (#56)
    by JamesTX on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:31:24 PM EST
    struck me. The issue isn't that she was a pregnant woman. The issue is that she was tased to enforce compliance with a request to sign a document -- compliance which involved an act rather than restraint or the cessation of some dangerous behavior (like stopping physical resistance). That is, I can buy that she could be arrested (although clearly that is absurd), but being forced to sign a document under threat of being tased is a very frightening and Constitutionally repulsive idea. It clearly moves beyond the concept of using the threat of physical torture to maintain safety and into the realm of torture to elicit compliance with demands that have nothing to do with safety. Furthermore, it is not compliance that is related to safety or danger. It is related to acknowledging and agreeing to something in writing. That is very frightening.  That is clearly illegal torture.

    Refusing to sign a document is not violence, resistance, or threat. It is a legal matter that can be reviewed by a court at a later time. It places nobody in any danger and is not in itself an act (but an omission). Clearly, this is a case where the officers were simply offended that their authority was challenged, and challenging the authority of civil authorities is not a violent crime unless it involves some form of threat, aggressive behavior, or danger. One would think the electric torture would be reserved for situations where there is some impending clear and present danger or threat. That is what we were told to justify it. This was about the cops' pride and arrogance alone.

    It also sets a precedent which really bothers me in general for other reasons. Again, not because of pregnancy, although that makes the police behavior beyond evil. What it tells us is that it is acceptable for authorities to use physical threat of torture to make people sign things. Since most of us are not lawyers, we frequently don't know the consequences of signing documents. We have to wait until we can get legal advice. My friends who have inherited money are told by their lawyers and financial advisers to sign absolutely nothing for anybody. Our right to opt not to sign a document is very basic human right to control what we agree to or consent to. It seems this precedent could allow the kinds of documents which people can be forced to sign under threat of electric torture to expand, until it becomes a commonplace method of obtaining consent, obligation, confession, and anything else. Then there is the prospect of the power moving into the hands of private corporations, which it will very quickly in our current political environment.  

    This is a big deal. In the words of Biden, a big f**king deal. It worries me. There should be outrage. If ever there should be, it should be now. Where is it?


    I believe that signing a ticket (none / 0) (#58)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:40:58 PM EST
    is only deemed an agreement to appear later in court.  If you don't agree to appear later, so the reasoning goes, then they cannot let you go but must take you into custody immediately.

    But most people will not get that, and especially given the stress of the event, are unlikely to learn the fine points right there on the spot.

    It is all about authority and not offending the cops.....Who else in society can arrest someone at gunpoint who offends them?  


    Was she given time to read the fine print? My last (5.00 / 2) (#73)
    by jawbone on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:42:26 PM EST
    speeding ticket, out of state, required no signature -- and it cost plenty!

    Also, doesn't sound as if the cops read her an pertinent language, but went right for the coercive force.


    Threats of violence to sign papers now? Can our Banksters get away with that? The health insurance companies? Their IRS enforcers?


    Interestingly, this plaintiff had a (none / 0) (#91)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:19:21 PM EST
    prior citation--failure to stop for school bus displaying lights.  She thinks what she wants to think apparently irregardless of what she is told or reads.

    But that has no bearing on this incident (5.00 / 2) (#93)
    by shoephone on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:25:36 PM EST
    does it?

    And there is no such word as "irregardless."


    Oh, I see. (5.00 / 1) (#98)
    by JamesTX on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 07:01:14 PM EST
    Another Willie Horton. By all means, forget their rights. Close the revolving. I'm glad you let us know about her long and rocky history of crime. That changes everything. Silly me.

    In fact, shock her again... n/t (none / 0) (#99)
    by JamesTX on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 07:06:26 PM EST
    And Again (5.00 / 1) (#101)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:37:30 PM EST
    Because she is so fat..

    I don't understand why you would have to sign (5.00 / 2) (#78)
    by Zorba on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:24:30 PM EST
    Presumably, they can tell you "You must appear in court on such-and-such a date.  If you do not, then an arrest warrant may be issued."  For cripe's sake, it's only a traffic ticket.  If she habitually fails to appear in traffic court, then let them scoop her up.  They have her driver's license information, after all.  Why do they need to taser her?  What would they have done in a situation like this back before there were tasers?  Shot her?  Just wait until they require us all to carry some form of national ID at all times, and we get tasered if we don't immediately produce it upon request, even if we are innocently walking down the street. {{Shudder}}

    Precisely my (none / 0) (#61)
    by JamesTX on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:01:25 PM EST
    point. What the signature is for is irrelevant. Most of us know what signing a ticket is for, but some may not. I don't say for a minute they couldn't arrest her. That is absurd, but fine in terms of human rights. Of course, my understanding from the post is that the powers that be have evidently realized how absolutely positively wrong it is and they have changed the laws (probably out of fear that they are about to awaken a sleeping giant with their nazi cops). It is important for them to not offend too many people when turning the government into a fascist police state, so they don't want to alert everybody that gets a ticket to the fact that the Constitution is dead. It is better to keep that information among insiders and not have cops out stomping people over signing traffic tickets. Those people might register to vote, and nobody wants that.

    tased to get out of car... (none / 0) (#86)
    by lawstudent on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:04:09 PM EST
    I do not read the opinion to state she was tased to force her to sign the ticket, but rather, tased to get her out of the car as they were arresting her for refusing to sign the ticket.  Not sure if that changes your view, but it was not "sign here or i'll tase you."  They were past that - she refused to sign, they intended to arrest her, and she would not get out of the car.  

    It actually does (none / 0) (#102)
    by JamesTX on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:41:08 PM EST
    change my opinion in terms of the human rights perspective. If you are correct (which I suspect you are, because I can't see a Federal court actually doing something like this -- to be honest) then what happened is she was tortured for resisting arrest. It isn't an example of being coerced to sign something under threat of torture. I can see how the former might be rationalized as being within the law (although it isn't because torture is illegal), and I would have to admit is within the currently assumed rights of the police, even though it was clearly a cowardly, vicious, and unnecessary act, considering that they must have realized they were also torturing a unborn innocent child.  But if that is what happened, then it is just plain insensitive and mean behavior by cops full of themselves, rather than a serious threat to our Constitutional status. Insensitive, mean cops who are full of themselves is something we should all be worried about, but it isn't the same thing as creating a precedent that authorities can torture people to force them to sign something.

    how to deal with resisting arrest? (none / 0) (#122)
    by diogenes on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 07:54:16 PM EST
    It would have been better for the cops to grab and manhandle her because she was resisting arrest?  Or to pull out their guns?  How do you suggest dealing with a pregnant woman who is resisting arrest?

    Arrest For What? (none / 0) (#123)
    by squeaky on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 08:37:07 PM EST
    Not signing a traffic ticket? Good thing they had tasers, so they did not have to shoot her full of bullets, right?

    Please don't interpret (none / 0) (#124)
    by JamesTX on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 12:34:08 AM EST
    my comment to mean that I think what they did is acceptable or even legal. But we aren't going to change what police can do to people until American's get over their obsession with "respect for authority". If the law allows for her to be arrested for not signing the ticket, then what they did was involved in the process of making a legal arrest. Police go over the line all the time in those activities, and there are rarely any consequences for them. They therefore continue to become more and more bold in doling out brutality. The problem seems to be that Americans don't care, because they are not demanding change. Is that a problem? Yes. Is it becoming a more serious problem that threatens our democracy and is encroaching on human rights? Yes. I don't argue that in the slightest, but I don't know what to do if Americans as a group don't care.  Police brutality is growing by leaps and bounds because precedent after precedent is being established which amounts to approval of brutality and an overt policy of ignoring abuses if the victim is seen as "a criminal".  The issue is not whether it is wrong or dangerous. The issue is that there is no outrage and no viable political force which opposes it. It is nothing new. It has been escalating for years, and there is no sign of any force to counter it or correct it. Yes, it is a serious problem, but it is being perpetrated through due process.

    On the other hand, a precedent that allows police to force people to sign things under threat of torture would be something new and substantially more frightening, because it would mean that an entirely new area of dismantling of the Constitution is underway.

    What happened to this woman was wrong, but it is happening to someone else right now, and it happens hundreds of times a day. Nobody cares enough for it to be on the table in our representative political process. It isn't right, but it isn't news, either. A precedent that allows authorities to force people to sign things using electric torture would be important news.


    Yup (none / 0) (#125)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 12:45:28 AM EST
    On the other hand, a precedent that allows police to force people to sign things under threat of torture would be something new and substantially more frightening, because it would mean that an entirely new area of dismantling of the Constitution is underway.

    Plaintiff may seek (none / 0) (#27)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:44:08 AM EST
    en banc, which is discretionary.  Plaintiff may peition SCOTUS for certiorari, which is also discretionary.

    Jesus, I can't tase my baby but the (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 09:39:02 AM EST
    cops can if they want to.

    In a couple of years (5.00 / 1) (#57)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:39:53 PM EST
    they'll probably have a special Tase Me Elmo for infants and recalcitrant pre-schoolers.

    After "the opinion" is written on it's proper place in the repertoire of law enforcement.


    Already Happening (5.00 / 1) (#59)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:45:08 PM EST
    Watch that six year old (3.00 / 2) (#60)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:56:36 PM EST
    go and try and play the race card like Gates..

    Those people will stop at nothing.


    police should only be allowed to use the tazer (5.00 / 6) (#20)
    by TeresaInPa on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:08:11 AM EST
    in circumstances where they would otherwise use a gun and deadly force.  It should not be used to make their job easier or to punish people who piss them off.

    Taser is considered by law enforcement (none / 0) (#22)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:26:05 AM EST
    agencies to be a using a lesser amount of force than using a firearm.  Rightly so.

    Perhaps the three officers physically removing plaintiff from the vehicle would have been a better choice here.  But maybe not, given her physical resistance and the fact she was pregnant.

    Without reading the whole opinion, it appears this was a Gates/Crowley type situation.  Plaintiff is AA and apparently mentioned that as the reason she was cited for speeding.


    It Was Unlawful Arrest (5.00 / 5) (#30)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:51:57 AM EST
    In WA there is no requirement to sign a traffic ticket:

    The majority's opinion outraged Judge Marsha Berzon, who called it "off the wall."

    "I fail utterly to comprehend how my colleagues are able to conclude that it was objectively reasonable to use any force against Brooks, let alone three activations of a Taser, in response to such a trivial offense," she wrote.

    She argued that under Washington law, the officers had no authority to take Brooks into custody: Failure to sign a traffic infraction is not an arrestable offense, and it's not illegal to resist an unlawful arrest.

    Berzon said the majority's notion that Brooks obstructed officers was so far-fetched that even the officers themselves didn't make that legal argument. To obstruct an officer, one must obstruct the officer's official duties, and the officers' only duties in this case were to detain Brooks long enough to identify her, check for warrants, write up the citation and give it to her. Brooks' failure to sign did not interfere with those duties, she said.

    via digby


    Operative phrase is "she argued." (none / 0) (#33)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:55:59 AM EST
    Hamlet Met HD calls.  I will read entire opinion later today.

    That is Sick (5.00 / 2) (#35)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:06:32 PM EST
    To torture someone because she argued? And are you arguing with a straight face, that the police would have had to shot her, had they no access to the torture device?

    Really, it is hard to believe that even you would argue that.


    Read. Dissentt says "she argued" (none / 0) (#38)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:09:02 PM EST
    failure to sign citation was not an arrestable offense.  Meaning--plaintiff's position, which apparently the majority and defendants rejected.  

    Until I read the entire opinion, I have no opinion as to whether defendants were entitled to qualified immunity under these circumstances.  It is a given taser is a lesser use of force than using firearm.


    Holy Moly (5.00 / 2) (#41)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:12:41 PM EST
    You are defending the police with the absurd one size fits all argument that had the police not had a taser, they would have shot Malaika Brooks and her uborn fetus.

    I guess once a prosecutor always a prosecutor. Or those who are drawn to becoming prosecutors, are by nature police apologists.  


    Law enforcement is empowered by department (none / 0) (#43)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:16:31 PM EST
    written policy and by 42 U.S.C. section 1983 case law to employ escalating amounts of force depending on the circumstances.  Talking didn't work.  Physically removing her from the vehicle may have been better choice, if lawful.  I don't know.  Neither do you. Please retire the tired meme, once a prosecutor etc.  I don't have an opinion until I read the entire opinion.  

    No amount of force is reasonable (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:21:56 PM EST
    in this case--a traffic stop given the alleged offense of speeding and condition of the woman.....

    Just let her go.....Big deal.  But cops cannot be disrespected-or they'll make you pay.


    An if they dont (5.00 / 1) (#52)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:28:10 PM EST
    that grandstanding prosecutor -- batting clean-up for the home team -- will.

    Institutionalized Sadism (5.00 / 1) (#53)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:31:03 PM EST
    And the taser is the perfect device for delivering it, as it leaves no marks.

    Tree falling in a forest, makes no sound. Torture leaving no marks did not happen.


    You read... (5.00 / 1) (#63)
    by JamesTX on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:12:27 PM EST
    I'll vote. Some things are so blatant at the overall level that they really can't intellectualized.

    I did read. IMO, district (none / 0) (#67)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:49:56 PM EST
    court was correct in denying motion for summary judgment.  Jury should decide whether second and third Taser were excessive force, given vehicle was turned off by officer removing keys from ignition, and plaintiff was unable to comply with order to get out of the vehicle due to continuous pain complaince maneuver re her left arm.  This is accepting majority's opinion, as a matter of law, law enforcement at the time of the incident had discretion to arrest for failure to sign traffic citation.

    What gave the police the authority (none / 0) (#80)
    by jaolson on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:36:26 PM EST
    to place her under custodial arrest?  I'm admittedly not a lawyer, but from my reading of the relevant statutes (or at least what I think are the relevant statutes)the officers only had the authority to detain her for the purpose of obtaining all necessary identification, to check for warrants, and and to issue a citation.  How did her refusal to sign the ticket interfere with any of that?

    Furthermore, from what I can tell not signing a ticket isn't an arrestable offense at all.


    Did you ever have an opinion (none / 0) (#47)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:20:33 PM EST
    before you read someone else's opinion?

    Vien the post is about a Ninth Circuit (none / 0) (#50)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:24:20 PM EST
    Court of Appeals opinion:  yes.  

    Arguing with cops is now an invitation to physical (5.00 / 1) (#74)
    by jawbone on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:45:01 PM EST

    Is this woman black? Is that part of why the cops went all taser on her?


    Raising issues counter to what the police believe (5.00 / 1) (#75)
    by jawbone on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:46:06 PM EST
    is not not only "arguing" but to be punished by physical pain?

    Yes, this is part of the control mechanism of the modern state.


    Where would someone like Churchill (none / 0) (#121)
    by jondee on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 10:48:07 AM EST
    ever get the idea that there were Eichmans in this country?

    AA and obese. (none / 0) (#76)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:46:16 PM EST
    How about taking down (5.00 / 5) (#36)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:07:48 PM EST
    the pertinent information, giving her a stern reminder about speed limits in school zones and sending her a ticket in the mail?

    This is a woman who was driving 32 mph; not a drug kingpin or the head of the Crips.

    Considerations of the use of firearms or tasers should never enter into it.

    Paging Dr Milgram!


    Had plaintiff chosen to sign the citation, (none / 0) (#39)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:10:29 PM EST
    that is exactly what would have happened.  She would have been free to leave.  Then she would have received a copy in the mail of citation with court date.  

    The knuckle walkers (5.00 / 4) (#44)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:16:32 PM EST
    who tased a seven-months-pregnant woman should be signing a citation right now, as far as Im concerned.

    She apparently thought signing (5.00 / 2) (#46)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:19:29 PM EST
    the ticket was an admission of guilt.....

    So, they had to arrest her?  Just send her a ticket in the mail.  Or give her a copy.  When you serve a summons and complaint in a civil case, you don't need the signature of the defendant who is served.

    All about following authority--not all that compelling when we are talking about a pregnant woman.....


    Citizens will comply with all police directives (5.00 / 1) (#77)
    by jawbone on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:47:55 PM EST
    without question or comment.

    Citizens who do not comply will managed with all necessary force.


    Well, I will certainly expect (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by ruffian on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:40:19 AM EST
    the liberty loving tea party crowd to be (literally) up in arms about this.

    Wait for it.

    Stanley Milgram time: (5.00 / 3) (#29)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:51:33 AM EST
    When it comes to this type of behavior on the part of the police, a good half the country can be expected to respond the way Stanley Milgram's experimental subjects did. The "respect" for the use of brute force on the part of authority figures overriding all other considerations.

    I think we need (5.00 / 2) (#62)
    by JamesTX on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:08:46 PM EST
    some serious social commentary on the idea of "respect for authority". It is a tired idea born of the conservative backlash that is used to justify anything and everything. Clearly, our Constitutional tradition is all about restraining authority rather than respecting it, and the millions of people who accept this idea as a principle of morality need some education. At least, we need it explained and defined.

    Perhaps Chuck Schumer could give the adress (none / 0) (#83)
    by Rojas on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 04:10:35 PM EST
    or  Dianne Feinstein?? Joe Biden?
    Hell, maybe even the ol' Big Dawg himself!

    Cowards (5.00 / 7) (#31)
    by tomandlou on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:53:33 AM EST
    Anyone who would taser a pregnant woman is a coward and a bully.

    Plain and simple. (5.00 / 3) (#68)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:56:24 PM EST
    This isn't about the law or what the cops had a "lawful" right to do.  This is about right and wrong on the most basic level.  

    IMO, this is so far on the side of wrong that it is off the scale.  

    The symptom of a very, very sick society.  

    Whisky Tango Foxtrot??? (5.00 / 2) (#100)
    by Nowonmai on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:28:49 PM EST
    Tasering a heavily pregnant woman for not signing a ticket is ok now?  And if that had caused her to go into premature labor and still birth, would it still have been ok?

    What the hell is going on???

    "Driving her son the African-American (5.00 / 2) (#116)
    by magnetics on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 12:03:35 AM EST
    Academy"  says the news story in the link.  Am I wrong to surmise that the plaintiff is Aframerican?  If so, I would declare  the (already egregious) police abuse here to be  multiplied by the factor 'driving while black', which is of course a well-known infraction.

    Anyhow, before tasers, I was never scared of cops, but that has changed

    Ban Tasers Now!

    And (5.00 / 1) (#117)
    by squeaky on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 12:16:16 AM EST
    Not just black but obese...

    'driving while black' and [driving while obese]

    Off Topic a Bit (5.00 / 1) (#127)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 01:35:00 PM EST
    A company has developed shirts and pants that have some sort of metallic fibers integrated into them that make a taser useless, they short out.

    Is this lady stoooopid, sign the damn ticket, what kind of idiot doesn't sign the ticket, especially after being warned of the taser, especially someone who is pregnant.

    Why three cops, was she black, no white lady get three cops unless she has a gun, crack, and is drunk.  For any court to think this is perfect reasonable, is a testament to the stooooopidity of our population or the complete disregard of minorities rights.

    What kind of animals taser a woman, much less a pregnant one.  I thought the taser's purpose was to resolve situations that could become violent and/or lethal. A substitute for a deadly force(gun), how is this any different than slapping her around for a bit, no permanent damage, just enough to get her to do what they want.

    And lastly, did she sign, did they take her to jail, what happened ?

    One point (1.00 / 1) (#4)
    by nyjets on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 06:47:03 AM EST
    There is one fact in the above account that is missing. The police officers tasered Malaika Brooks whe she refused to leave her car when the police officers decided to arrest her for not signing the ticket.
    Part of me does feel that cops crossed the line if for no other reason, arresting her seemed to be unnecessary. However, Malaika Brooks is not an innocent lamb in this case.

    problems (5.00 / 5) (#7)
    by Nasarius on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:02:10 AM EST
    1. You don't need a taser to arrest someone; using one against someone who isn't actively, violently resisting is simply insane, counterproductive and really should be illegal.

    2. "Refusing to sign a speeding ticket was at the time a nonarrestable misdemeanor." Oops.

    Someone being an ass is no excuse for torturing them.

    I am not necessary arguing with your point (1.00 / 2) (#9)
    by nyjets on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:16:59 AM EST
    I would not disagree with your points. I do believe that arresting the woman was a little much under the circumstances.
    However, she was resisting arrest and I can not help but wonder if she was using her pregancy to dare the cops to do something incredible stupid (which they did in all honestly).
    I just feel that the fact that she was resisting arrest is an important point and might have been a factor in the mind of the court. The cops screwed up but the woman was not a lamb herself.

    Passive resistence (5.00 / 6) (#12)
    by Democratic Cat on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 09:37:21 AM EST
    Resisting arrest by remaining seated seems very different to me than resisting arrest by violent behavior.  I cannot imagine the circumstances under which tasering a passively resisting individual, pregnant or not and goading the police or not, should be allowed.  It reminds me of the case years ago when police used Qtips to apply pepper spray to the eyes of passive protesters in Northern California.  This tasering of a human being for remaining seated in her car is just as shocking to me.

    Not a lamb, I think sheep is a better fit (5.00 / 4) (#8)
    by Rojas on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:02:17 AM EST
    for the authority worshipers.

    She argued that under Washington law, the officers had no authority to take Brooks into custody: Failure to sign a traffic infraction is not an arrestable offense, and it's not illegal to resist an unlawful arrest.

    So (5.00 / 7) (#19)
    by szielinski on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:04:34 AM EST
    This pregnant woman actually has a right to refuse to sign a speeding ticket. She is subsequently wrongly arrested for refusing to sign a ticket she disputed; and then, after she refused to submit to the officers while they tried to complete their wrongful arrest, is tortured till she submitted to the officers so that they may complete their wrongful arrest. Moreover, the torture also may have harmed the the fetus the woman was carrying so that that person waiting to be born may spend the rest of the his or her life managing the effects produced by the unauthorized torture. In no way can the fetus be considered culpable of any crime or as a rightful object of illegal police acts such as torture.

    And some doubt that the country is in trouble....


    One of the members of the majority (none / 0) (#5)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 07:00:48 AM EST
    has taken senior status. I think this case is calling out for en banc review.

    Meaning the snerior status judge must (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:03:30 AM EST
    be senile?  Or a Reagan appointee?

    Must I read the whole opinion to find out why law enforcement was arresting plaintiff for a non-arrestable offense?  What justifiable remedy did law enforcement have if she refused to sign the citation?


    Meaning that, IIRC, he doesn't get (none / 0) (#24)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:40:16 AM EST
    a circuit vote.

    Didn't know that. (none / 0) (#26)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:42:38 AM EST
    Incorrect. Senior Judges who (none / 0) (#51)
    by Peter G on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:25:19 PM EST
    served on the panel do get to opt in to the en banc vote, and to participate if the case is then reheard.  Other senior judges are excluded.  Title 28, U.S. Code, section 46(c).  

    Interesting (none / 0) (#54)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:31:07 PM EST
    I admit that the whole notion of senior status is bizarre to me. If you aren't up to serving on the circuit level anymore, why should you still be hearing cases?

    At least at district court level, (none / 0) (#65)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:33:47 PM EST
    a judge on senior status is required to handle a 24% case load and may choose to handle more.  

    Until a few days ago (none / 0) (#120)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 01:16:36 AM EST
    the only Judge in the western Wisconsin District was on senior status, and handling more cases than any other Federal Judge in the country. A second was finally confirmed, with the last pending nominee, Louis butler, held up by the Senate Republicans.

    Senior judges (none / 0) (#79)
    by Peter G on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:26:58 PM EST
    I'm pretty sure that pursuing the issue of senior judges and their powers would not be of interest to many TL readers, Andy.  I may send you more info off-list, as self-appointed "proctor" (to use the old PA term) of your legal education.  Are you graduating this year?

    Fair enough (5.00 / 2) (#81)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:39:26 PM EST
    And given the job market, thankfully no, I have a year to go.

    I think we can all agree she is (none / 0) (#87)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:04:57 PM EST
    "Senior" by any definition of the word.

    Huh? (none / 0) (#96)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:59:13 PM EST
    Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall was born in 1929. (none / 0) (#105)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:41:44 PM EST
    Ok (none / 0) (#107)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:47:21 PM EST
    Not sure what that had to do with my comment, though.

    Nothing. (none / 0) (#108)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:48:37 PM EST
    Well soccer moms (none / 0) (#6)
    by Rojas on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 07:52:48 AM EST
    be careful what you ask for..

    read the majority (none / 0) (#15)
    by lawstudent on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:03:53 AM EST
    I'm going to assume (perhaps incorrectly) that all of the commenters have read the entire opinion, and not just the juicy portion of the dissent quoted in the original post.  There are many facts that are relevant - regardless of your ultimate opinion on the matter - that are contained within the majority.

    Let's not spin this story as though officers pulled over a pregnant lady for speeding, started screaming at her and then tased her and placed her under arrest for refusing to sign a speeding ticket.  It's just not what happened.  There's more to it.

    That said, I disagree with the result in this case.  To me, the unreasonableness of the officers' conduct is found solely in the fact that Ms. Brooks was pregnant.  Everything else being equal, I would agree with the majority's analysis as I understand the facts.

    Maybe you need to read it again (5.00 / 6) (#21)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:14:08 AM EST
    From the majority:

    She accused Officer Jonesof lying to her about the import of signing, suggested he was being racist, and became upset, repeating "I'm not signing, I'm not signing" over and over. Throughout, she remained in the car with the ignition running Brooks refused to leave her car, remaining in it with the ignition running and her door shut. Officer Jones then showed Brooks his Taser, explaining that it would hurt "extremely
    bad" if applied. Brooks told them she was pregnant and that she needed to use the restroom.

     The officers discussed where to tase her, deciding on her thigh. Officer Jones demonstrated
    the Taser for her. Brooks still remained in the car, so Officer Ornelas opened the door and reached over to take the key out  of the ignition, dropping the keys on the floorboard.

    Officer Ornelas then employed a pain compliance technique, bringing Brooks's left arm up behind her back, whereon Brooks stiffened her body and clutched the steering wheel in order to frustrate her removal from the car. Officer Jones discharged the Taser against Brooks's thigh, through her sweat pants, which caused Brooks "tremendous pain." She began to yell and honk the car's horn. Within the next minute, Officer Jones tased her two more times, against her shoulder and neck.

    She was going 32mph in a 20mph school zone they said. She believed signing the notice would be used as an admission of guilt. It was not an arrestable offense. If it was not arrestable, she shouldn't be liable for resisting arrest. She remained seated in her car. She didn't yell until they tased her.


    arrestable offense or not... (none / 0) (#88)
    by lawstudent on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:13:12 PM EST
    ...the question was not whether refusal to sign the Notice was an arrestable offense in and of itself.  Question was whether police had probable cause.  If they did, then she was resisting a lawful arrest...

    "Brooks concedes that she refused to sign the Notice,
    which amounted to a violation of Seattle Municipal Code
    § 11.59.090(c). For the purposes of the Fourth Amendment,
    this is sufficient to find probable cause. See Virginia v.
    Moore, 128 S. Ct. 1598, 1606-07 (2008) (holding that an
    arrest based on probable cause does not violate the Fourth
    Amendment, even if the relevant criminal offense is non-
    arrestable under state law)."


    Does this pass the straight-face test (none / 0) (#89)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:15:12 PM EST
    to you?

    see my earlier post (none / 0) (#95)
    by lawstudent on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:56:26 PM EST
    I don't have a problem with the basic reasoning as I think it's the correct analysis, but I don't see how/why police would need to tase a pregnant woman.   Therefore, I disagree with the overall conclusion.

    Speeding at 32 mph (5.00 / 5) (#23)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:31:06 AM EST
    7 months pregnant and being dealt with by three grown men in, Im assuming, above average physical condition and they have to tase her three times?

    Or is that "just not what happened"? (because those guys I saw on Law and Order last week would never lie about anything..)

    The problem seems to be that most of these sacred bulls from the Temple of Shiva in uniform would have to go out in broad daylight and gun down twenty innocent people before anyone seriously takes them to task for not adhering to the same rules of civilized society that everyone else is expected to adhere to.


    IMO, the school zone is an important (none / 0) (#90)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:16:10 PM EST
    factoid. Obviously children were present--including her son.

    Yes of course, doing it for the children (5.00 / 1) (#94)
    by Rojas on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:42:45 PM EST
    gota get one of those in there...

    unsolicited advice to motorists: (none / 0) (#28)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:46:02 AM EST
    just get out of the damn car already.  

    What about advice to the cops (5.00 / 3) (#37)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:08:50 PM EST
    Don't taze motorists who cannot be arrested.....

    She could be lawfully arrested if she (none / 0) (#40)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:11:49 PM EST
    failed to obey a lawful order of law enforcement.  Not sure if she did as I haven't read entire opinion yet.

    F' the Opinion (5.00 / 3) (#42)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:14:15 PM EST
    This was a pregnant woman who was shot with electricity 3 times because she argued. That is torture plain and simple, and whoooee, it leaves no marks.

    Apparently she both argued and refused (none / 0) (#45)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:17:30 PM EST
    an order to get out of her vehicle.

    The reason they were ordering her out of her car (5.00 / 2) (#84)
    by jaolson on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 04:23:02 PM EST
    was so they could place her under custodial arrest, something they cannot do to a person who fails to sign a traffic citation.

    Resisting an unlawful arrest is not illegal.


    Resisting an unlawful arrest (5.00 / 1) (#85)
    by Peter G on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 04:57:26 PM EST
    is not illegal in some states, while in others, it is.  In Washington State, it appears that you are correct:  Resisting arrest is a crime only if the police officer is "lawfully arresting" the person.

    Peter G, what is your opinion of (none / 0) (#92)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:23:58 PM EST
    the majority's opinion that, at the time of this incident, law enforcement could arrest for failure to sign citation?

    That seems to me a side question (5.00 / 2) (#97)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 06:02:04 PM EST
    Ultimately you have to ask whether it was reasonable for them to taser her? What if instead one of them had punched her in the face?

    I think it is a crucial art of the opinion. (none / 0) (#106)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:46:19 PM EST
    Not the only part, for sure.

    "part." (none / 0) (#109)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:49:10 PM EST
    Surely it isn't the case (none / 0) (#110)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:49:30 PM EST
    that once an arrest is allowed, you may use whatever force, no matter how disproportionate, to take a person into custody.

    Of course not. (none / 0) (#111)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:50:49 PM EST
    Great, so you agree with me! (none / 0) (#112)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:51:40 PM EST
    As discussed in the majority opinion, (none / 0) (#113)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:53:31 PM EST
    whether law enforcement had discretion to arrest is one component of qualified immunity.  Majority decided law enforcement had discretion to arrest on the citation.  Dissent strenuously disagreed.  Under either scenario, question is still whether the force employed was reasonable under an objective look at the circumstances.

    Exactly (none / 0) (#115)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 11:12:33 PM EST
    and I think that in this instance, the second question is dispositive.

    Not sure. If majority had concluded (none / 0) (#118)
    by oculus on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 12:23:09 AM EST
    law enforcement did not have discretion to arrest for failure to sign traffic citaion, there would have been no reason to use any force.

    I agree (none / 0) (#119)
    by andgarden on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 12:31:22 AM EST
    But I would never expect to see a headline reported across the country saying "failure to sign traffic ticket allows arrest, says judge."

    That's not what makes this an interesting or controversial case.


    You may have noticed, Oc, (none / 0) (#104)
    by Peter G on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 09:11:20 PM EST
    that I have not commented on the opinion itself.  That's because I haven't read it.  (I gather that it's a "qualified immunity" decision under section 1983, by the way.  I find opinions of that nature particularly difficult to explain clearly and logically to a non-lawyer audience, because the whole doctrine is so whack.) I'm busy writing a brief in one of my own cases, due Monday.  I am distracting myself when stuck on an idea by checking out my favorite blog. If something comes up that I happen to know something about, and can clarify, I dash off a comment.  Otherwise, I have nothing substantial to contribute to the main discussion and therefore (surprise!) don't.

    I did noitce that, which is why I asked you the (none / 0) (#114)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:54:04 PM EST

    "lawful order" of the cops (5.00 / 2) (#55)
    by MKS on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:31:24 PM EST
    That just gives the cops complete discretion to order just about whatever they want.....Regardless of the actual rules regarding giving orders to the public, few will ever question what a cops does.....

    And with Police Unions being extremely powerful, there is not much of a check and balance against cops giving orders just because they were insulted or felt disrespected.  


    Guy I knew (none / 0) (#64)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:13:35 PM EST
    was almost killed by a drunken off-duty thug who was trying to "make an arrest" in a 24 hr diner during bar rush. The cop was beating the sh*t out of the "perpetrator" right in the middle of restauraunt when my friend, who was cooking in the place, tried to get between them..the cop turned on him and this kid ended up in the ICU with about five broken bones in his face and UNDER ARREST due to the actions of the cop's pals who had arrived on the scene. And to top the obscenity off, someone handcuffed him to his bed.

    The incident was completely buried when the Law and Order crew made some charges that my friend's brother was facing completely disappear into thin air. Abracadabra. No opinion ever rendered.


    I would point out here (5.00 / 3) (#49)
    by Kimberley on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:23:13 PM EST
    That, legal nuts-n-bolts aside, it seems her self-protective instincts proved correct.

    This was no ordinary stop in large part because these officers had aggressively bad judgment.


    The two-judge majority and the one-judge (none / 0) (#66)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 01:38:57 PM EST
    dissent disagree on whether at the time of the incident law enforcement had authority to arrest for refusal to sign citation.

    They're elected judges (none / 0) (#69)
    by jondee on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:01:44 PM EST
    not the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

    In case you were wondering if there was a difference.


    No need to snip. They are nominated (none / 0) (#70)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:02:52 PM EST
    by President and confirmed after advise and consent of the Senate.  Not elected.  Human--definitely.

    Yes (none / 0) (#71)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:10:51 PM EST
    Hall, Cynthia Holcomb
    Born 1929 in Los Angeles, CA

    Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    Nominated by Ronald Reagan on August 1, 1984, to a new seat created by 98 Stat. 333; Confirmed by the Senate on October 3, 1984, and received commission on October 4, 1984. Assumed senior status on August 31, 1997.

    O`Scannlain, Diarmuid Fionntain
    Born 1937 in New York, NY

    Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    Nominated by Ronald Reagan on August 11, 1986, to a seat vacated by Robert Boochever; Confirmed by the Senate on September 25, 1986, and received commission on September 26, 1986.


    Here is some gossip about (none / 0) (#72)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 02:19:07 PM EST
    Hall and CJ Rehnquist:  link

    How much longer? (none / 0) (#126)
    by SeeEmDee on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 11:20:40 AM EST
    How much longer before the taser-happy police run into someone who realizes how life-threatening tasers are and decides to 'respond in kind'?

    Just a matter of time.

    Disagree (none / 0) (#128)
    by prattleonboyo on Fri Apr 02, 2010 at 02:58:25 PM EST
    "This is one of the most illogical, poorly reasoned court opinions I can recall in a long time." Not really, unless you consider Citizens United v. FEC decision to be well reasoned and devoid of ideology.