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April 2, 2012

Lots more interesting criminal justice work from SCOTUS via orders and opinions

Though the Supreme Court will not be hearing argument for the next two weeks, the Justices provides still more reason for criminal justice folks to buzz about their work through the issuance of notable orders and opinions this morning.  SCOTUSblog, of course, is the place to go for all the SCOTUS news, and here is the live-blogging summary of some of the Court's work this morning:

[A grant in] 11-702, Moncrieffe [v. Holder, which concerns whether state conviction that covers distribution of a small amount of marijuana without remuneration constitutes an "aggravated felony" for deportation purposes]...

First opinion: 10-788, Rehberg v. Paulk (Alito), affirmed 9-0. A governmental grand jury witness has the same absolute immunity as a trial witness. The opinion in Rehberg is here.

[Second opinion:] 10-945, Florence -- affirmed.  Justice Kennedy writes the opinion, except as to Part IV.  Roberts, Scalia, and Alito join the Kennedy opinion in full; Thomas in part. Breyer writes the lead dissent.  The search procedures at the jails strike a reasonable balance.  Roberts and Alito write concurring opinions.  The part of the opinion that Thomas does not join says the Court leaves open what to do when the inmate will not be admitted into the general jail population.  Here is the opinion.

The Alito concurrence joins the opinion but says it is limited to admission to the general population without physical contact.  The Roberts concurrence draws attention to the fact that Florence was arrested on a warrant and had to be admitted to the general jail population. It's unclear how much the Court has decided.

Final opinion: 11-199, Vasquez [concerning harmless error review] -- dismissed as improvidently granted.

There is much of criminal justice interest in all of these ruling, though arguably nothing that significant to hard-core sentencing fans.  Still, I suspect the ruling, the voting particulars and the dicta of Florence is a matter on which I will have later commentary.  In the meantime, here is part of Lyle Denniston's first take on the Court's work regarding jails and strip searching:

Insisting that it has no expertise in how to run a jail or prison, the Supreme Court divided 5-4 Monday in ruling that every person arrested and held temporarily can be subjected to a routine strip search, so long as it involves only a visual inspection without touching or abusive gestures.  The prisoner, however, may be told to manipulate some part of the body.  A partial split within the five-Justice majority made it appear that the decision did not authorize jail officials to conduct a strip search unless the prisoner was to be placed among other prisoners at the facility. Two Justices wrote separately in an effort to narrow the ruling, and their votes were essential to the 5-4 result.

The decision was a clear defeat for challengers to strip searches as a general policy.  The Court explicitly refused to limit the authority to use such searches only to situations in which a specific individual gave officers a reason to consider that prisoner to be dangerous or likely to be carrying a concealed weapon or drugs.  The same kind of visual inspection of an arrestee’s naked body, the Court declared, can be applied to anyone placed in the general population of a jail or prison, even if only temporarily.

The ruling also was a personal defeat for a Burlington County, N.J., man, Albert W. Florence, who was subjected to strip searches at two county jails over a six-day period of confinement after he had been arrested while driving on a state highway, based upon an out-of-date warrant.  The warrant was for failure to pay a fine, but he had actually paid the fine; court records had not been updated.  Florence has contended in public comments that he believed he had been targeted because he was a black man driving an expensive car.

As if somehow to help justify its ruling against his challenge to the strip searches, the Court’s main opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy opened with a description of Florence’s earlier run-in with police, seven years before the arrest that led to the strip searches.... Although the Kennedy opinion would later say that police need not make a strip search policy depend upon an arrested individual’s prior history in crime, the inclusion of the background material about Florence’s history appeared to be aimed at showing that police could not know the character of any individual they had brought in, and thus needed a policy applying to all to ensure that no threat would enter the facility with that prisoner.

April 2, 2012 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

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Comments

In Vazquez, what happened to the defendant was wrongful, and he should have a remedy in torts. A mistake was made in communication. It resulted in false imprisonment, a body search injuring dignity, loss of income, infliction of emotional distress. Poor communication is a negligent mistake.

Most stunning part of decision? That first phrase, "Insisting that it has no expertise in how to run a jail or prison, the Supreme Court divided 5-4 Monday..."

When it comes to the government, the Supreme Court defers to the experts. When it comes to complex technical problems in outside industries, it feels free to dictate, and throw its weight around like a polar bear in a trailer court.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 2, 2012 5:01:35 PM

personaly based on what i read here!

http://news.yahoo.com/supreme-court-oks-routine-jailhouse-strip-searches-184103062.html;_ylt=AqzNiT2Vj0G6.ostX258rbfzWed_;_ylu=X3oDMTQzY3RzNnNxBG1pdANBcnRpY2xlIFRvcFN0b3JpZXMEcGtnA2RhMjYyY2FhLTBhYjAtMzUwMi04MjA2LWFkMjgzODllZjM1YgRwb3MDNgRzZWMDTWVkaWFTZWN0aW9uTGlzdAR2ZXIDYjZmYjM4OTItN2NmMy0xMWUxLWE3N2UtNDAwZTk5NmQ1ZDUx;_ylg=X3oDMTNjbWVybTJ1BGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDNWFmNWQyZWUtMGFhZS0zYmQwLWE2OWYtNjg1MjA3MmExMzI3BHBzdGNhdANidXNpbmVzc3x1cyBlY29ub215BHB0A3N0b3J5cGFnZQR0ZXN0Aw--;_ylv=3

should be glad they are not dealing with a DEAD COP!

becasue based on this! i would have given the officer 1 min to get away from me and at that point woudl have gladly killed him for HIS VIOLATION OF THE LAW!

"The first strip search of Florence took place in the Burlington County Jail in southern New Jersey. Six days later, Florence had not received a hearing and remained in custody. Transferred to another county jail in Newark, he was strip-searched again.

The next day, a judge dismissed all charges. Florence's lawsuit soon followed.

He still may pursue other claims, including that he never should have been arrested.

Florence, who is African-American, had been stopped several times before, and he carried a letter to the effect that the fine, for fleeing a traffic stop several years earlier, had been paid."

so i'd pretty ovious he's had this same problem from idots too stupid to update their records that he carried a letter that verifed the fine did NOT EXIST!

therefore any RIGHT to arrest did not LEGALLY EXIST! that means the officer was in fact and in LAW guilty of kidnapping! punish for tyring that and getting caught in the act can lead to death!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 3, 2012 1:39:25 AM

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