Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Conservative Supreme Court Justices Once Again Affirm Their Desire to Live in a Police State

But the Real News Here is the Case Itself – And Why Some Americans Fear the Justice System

The Supreme Court took up the case of whether or not police have an unlimited and unconditional right to strip search prisoners before incarcerating them in a general population jail.  To the surprise of no one, the Conservatives on the Court ruled that they do. 

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 ruling, saying that correctional officials have good reason to “to perform thorough searches at intake for disease, gang affiliation, and contraband.”

“There is a substantial interest in preventing any new inmate, either of his own will or as a result of coercion, from putting all who live or work at these institutions at even greater risk when he is admitted to the general population,” Kennedy wrote.

Yes, the minority, those who actually believe in limiting the police powers of government to those that are necessary as opposed to those who talk about limited government but continue to supported granting government unlimited power, dissented

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by the rest of the court’s liberals. They said corrections officials must have reasonable suspicion that the person arrested poses a danger before subjecting them to a strip search that is “inherently harmful, humiliating, and degrading.”

“And the harm to privacy interests would seem particularly acute where the person searched may well have no expectation of being subject to such a search, say, because she had simply received a traffic ticket for failing to buckle a seatbelt, because he had not previously paid a civil fine, or because she had been arrested for a minor trespass,” Breyer wrote.

But that is really not the story here in this totally expected decision.  The story is the case that led to the decision, and what it says about minorities and the police.

The case was brought by Albert Florence, a New Jersey man who said he was subjected to two invasive inspections in 2005 after being mistakenly arrested for not paying a fine.

A state trooper pulled over Florence’s BMW in 2005 as he and his family were on the way to his mother-in-law’s to celebrate the purchase of their new home. He was handcuffed and arrested in front of his distraught, pregnant wife and young son.

He spent seven days in jail because of a warrant that said, mistakenly, he was wanted for not paying a court fine. In fact, he had proof that the fine had been paid years earlier; he said he carried it in his glove box because he believed that police were suspicious of black men who drove nice cars.

Florence was jailed in Burlington County and then Essex County, before a magistrate ordered him released. 

Yes, an African American male was arrested and held in jail for at least a week even though he was innocent and even though he had proof or strong evidence that he was innocent.  One can easily imagine the thinking of the police here, that

“here was this African American whom the computer says did not pay a fine owning a BMW.  Obviously this man is a wanton criminal.”

Reading a story like this explains a lot of why the police in Florida simply released a Caucasian man shot and killed an unarmed black teenager and claimed self defense.  After all, aren’t all African American men criminals in the eyes of law enforcement?

And isn’t it a shame that the Republican Justices Alito, Thomas, Roberts and Scalia were not born in Stalinist Russia or the former Communist East Germany, where the police state was paramount and accepted.  They would have been so much happier there.


  1. Just a little note from Andy Borowitz:

    In Controversial Decision, Supreme Court Replaces Annual Physicals with Strip Searches