The Supreme Court’s supreme dodge
The Supreme Court has refused to revisit its doctrine of qualified immunity, under which government officials, including law enforcement, are protected from lawsuits for violating individual’s constitutional rights.
As Radley Balko writes, the Court’s conscious effort to avoid taking up the matter has placed it firmly against the Constitution – a stance that only the most Orwellian jurist could possibly support. It’s most recent refusal came in a case out of Denver:
…the court declined to review an especially outrageous ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit involving a Denver man who was detained for recording a traffic stop, then had his computer confiscated and searched.
No one doubts the man, Levi Frasier, had the right to record the stop. To date, six federal appeals courts have ruled there is a constitutional right to record police officers in public, a sentiment shared by the overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars. No federal appeals court has ruled the other way. In fact, the law is so well established that the officers in Denver were trained that citizens have such a right, and to respect it.
Yet the 10th Circuit ruled that because that circuit had yet to rule on the matter, the right was not yet “clearly established.” In a truly remarkable sentence, the court added, “It is therefore ‘irrelevant’ whether each officer defendant actually believed — or even in some sense knew — that his conduct violated . . . the First Amendment.”
The Supreme Court bought this bizarre, anti-constitutional argument:
George Orwell famously wrote, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” In defiance of everything we know about violence and state power — and for that matter most of human history — somehow, the Supreme Court has decided that the boot deserves more protection than the face.
And it will continue to embrace that view until enough Justices have the courage to admit that there are, indeed, limits to the state’s power over the people.