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June 22, 2015

SCOTUS rules 5-4 against government in two criminal procedure cases

The Supreme Court, back in action this morning, issued two notable split decisions in favor of individuals asserting rights against local or state criminal justice powers.  Here is an abridged (slightly modified) account of the SCOTUSblog early coverage of these rulings (with links):

The opinion in Kingsley v. Hendrickson is here.

This case arises out of an incident in a Wisconsin jail. Kingsley was waiting for trial on a drug charge when he got into a dispute with jail officers, who handcuffed him, forcibly removed him from his cell, and later used a taser on him. Kingsley then filed a lawsuit, alleging that jail officials had used excessive force. The question before the Court was what standard of review should apply to an excessive force claim by a pretrial detainee.

The Court ruled in favor of Kingsley, holding that courts should apply an objective test – the same Fourth Amendment excessive force test that applies to people who have not been arrested.  Vote is 5-4.  Under Section 1983, a pretrial detainee must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable to prevail on an excessive force claim.

Scalia dissents, joined by Chief and Thomas, and Alito dissents as well.


The opinion in Los Angeles v. Patel is here.

The question in this case was whether a Los Angeles ordinance that required hotel owners to keep registries of guests, and allowed officers to search them without any suspicion is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.  The Court the ordinance facially unconstitutional. Statute is facially unconstitutional because it fails to provide motel owners with an opportunity for pre-compliance review.

Sotomayor is writing. Decision of the Ninth Circuit is affirmed.  This is a strong decision for Fourth Amendment lovers.

June 22, 2015 at 10:24 AM | Permalink


Thanks for this information. Nicely written.

Posted by: Himadri | Jun 22, 2015 10:42:36 AM

Sotomayor also wrote a concurrence to a denial of cert.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 22, 2015 10:58:06 AM

"This is a strong decision for Fourth Amendment lovers."

Not really. LA will go back and rewrite the statute and as the opinion says the ruling today is "narrow". In the end, most hotels are not going to fight this battle because in then end even with some tincture of judicial review most police requests will be granted.

So the victory is hollow.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 22, 2015 3:43:23 PM

Daniel, most folks will take a hollow victory over a defeat.

Posted by: observer | Jun 22, 2015 4:15:51 PM

I think the biggest issue on the Fourth Amendment case is that everyone seems in favor of facial challenges to statutes that violate the Fourth Amendment. I know Professor Orin Kerr had been suggesting that prior case law prohibited this. This ruling allows people to use the Fourth Amendment to actually prevent unreasonable searches instead of pick up the pieces afterwards.

Posted by: Erik M | Jun 23, 2015 6:49:05 AM

"some tincture of judicial review" might help, including (as some reports suggest was alleged here) if hotel owners are selectively targeted by the police here is a discriminatory way. And, as noted, the facial challenge and overall administrative search (including the "closely regulated" exception being strictly limited) aspects might have broader effects. See, e.g., SCOTUBlog's opinion analysis.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 23, 2015 12:59:50 PM

I certainly do find it odd how limited their list of acceptable closely regulated industries is. I would have expected pawnshops to make the cut for example, and for the same reason I suspect junkyards to be there (as an attempt to curb markets in stolen goods).

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jun 24, 2015 12:19:27 AM

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