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Friday, 24 June 2016 06:24

Serody: Sotomayor's stinging dissent...

Written by  Bob Serody + Team SCPA

Posted June 23, 2016
Justice and injustice, USA, cont'd.
SCPA Member opinion*

Justice Sotomayor’s Stinging Dissent in Utah vs. Strief
And the Defense of Suspects’ Rights
By Bob Serody

Sonia Sotomayor was the first Hispanic woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and it was appropriate that she was nominated by the first African American to become President. I personally believe this was Barak Obama’s greatest accomplishment as President, for she was the perfect replacement for Justice Souter.

As an avid reader, I would like to recommend her autobiography, My Beloved World, which describes how a person born under very unfortunate circumstances can rise to the highest judicial position in government, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Fortunately, as a child, her professional career, which was inspired by the Perry Mason TV series, eventually led to her decision to become a judge. Her personal background and her experience as a trial lawyer in New York strengthened her conviction that the downtrodden in this country deserved the full protection afforded by our Bill of Rights. Her past decisions regarding past cases on the Supreme Court bear this out.

Her latest decision led to a stinging dissent in Utah vs. Strief, which dealt with the defense of a suspect’s rights. The case — in which a Utah man under no suspicion was illegally stopped by a police officer — was found to have an outstanding traffic warrant, and was subjected to a search that turned up a small quantity of methamphetamine — was decided by a 5-3 majority in favor of the state. If there was no reason for the officer to suspect that the driver was guilty of any offense, according to Sotomayor, he should not have been stopped and searched. The question then became – why was he stopped?

This is where statistics provides a probable answer. People of color and race are usually subjected to search and seizure without apparent cause when compared to that of Caucasians. There was reason to believe that bias could have motivated the arresting officer to make the stop, which in turn would have lead to the violation of the driver’s fourth amendment rights.

Sotomayor, by brilliantly using her dissent to look though the eyes of the victim, explained why the majority had ruled incorrectly.

*Citing W.E.B. Du Bois and Ta-Nehisi Coates among others, Justice Sotomayor argued that the Court's ruling, which opens the door for courts to admit evidence that was obtained after an illegal stop, is likely to particularly burden black and brown communities.
"It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny," Sotomayor 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."

"The indignity of the stop is not limited to an officer telling you that you look like a criminal. The officer may next ask for your 'consent' to inspect your bag or purse without telling you that you can decline. Regardless of your answer, he may order you to stand 'helpless, perhaps facing a wall with [your] hands raised.' If the officer thinks you might be dangerous, he may then 'frisk' you for weapons. This involves more than just a pat down. As onlookers pass by, the officer may 'feel with sensitive fingers every portion of [your] body. A thorough search [may] be made of [your] arms and armpits, waistline and back, the groin and area about the testicles, and entire surface of the legs down to the feet.'"

"The officer’s control over you does not end with the stop. If the officer chooses, he may handcuff you and take you to jail for doing nothing more than speeding, jaywalking, or 'driving [your] pickup truck ... with [your] 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter ... without [your] seatbelt fastened.' At the jail, he can fingerprint you, swab DNA from the inside of your mouth, and force you to 'shower with a delousing agent' while you 'lift [your] tongue, hold out [your] arms, turn around, and lift [your] genitals.' Even if you are innocent, you will now join the 65 million Americans with an arrest record and experience the 'civil death' of discrimination by employers, landlords, and whoever else conducts a background check. And, of course, if you fail to pay bail or appear for court, a judge will issue a warrant to render you 'arrestable on sight' in the future."

Being arrested is not a small matter, and in her dissent, it's clear Sotomayor wants her colleagues to truly understand what it is like.

Far from a minor inconvenience, an arrest is a dehumanizing experience that stays with people — both the trauma of it and the concrete permanent record of it — long after the initial detention.

As I originally mentioned, we are all very lucky that Barak Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. I believe she could teach the other Justices who voted in favor of the state about the rule of law.

*The description that follows was taken from an article by Upworthy.com.

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Bob Serody is a member of Space Coast Progressive Alliance.

*ED. NOTE: The views expressed here are solely those of the author. SCPA does not endorse candidates and welcomes commentary on a wide range of issues, including political campaigns, local,regional and national. If interested in contributing commentary, please contact SCPA.

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LINKS

Sonia Sotomayor's visceral description of what it's like to be arrested…
http://www.upworthy.com/sonia-sotomayors-visceral-description-of-what-its-like-to-be-arrested-is-a-must-read

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In her passionate dissent on race and police misconduct, Sonia Sotomayor spoke for plenty of Americans
The Washington Post, by Janell Ross, June 22, 2016

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent in a case involving police searches, inquires and warrants this week has been noted far and wide for its verbal ferocity and alternate perspective on American history and civil liberties. And as Esquire suggested to its readers, if you have not read it yet, you really should. …

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/06/22/in-her-passionate-dissent-on-race-and-police-misconduct-sonia-sotomayor-spoke-for-plenty-of-americans/

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Supreme Court's male justices violate Fourth Amendment over Sonia Sotomaoyr's devastating dissent
truthdig, by Sonali Kolhatkar, June 23, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court this week in a 5-3 decision issued a major ruling siding with the unethical practices of law enforcement. The court, which (like other branches of government) has historically been dominated by elite white men, built on earlier rulings dating to the 1960s that have supported some police officers’ propensity to target people for the color of their skin, among other characteristics. This latest ruling, which was starkly split along gender lines—Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagan were in the minority—adds another layer of legitimacy to bolster police who attempt to obtain evidence via unconstitutional searches and seizures. …

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/supreme_courts_male_justices_violate_fourth_amendment_20160623

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Compiled by Team SCPA

Last modified on Friday, 24 June 2016 07:57
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