In Praise of Justice Sotomayor
On the Fourth Amendment, she's quite good, one of the few seeking to delay the complete onset of the American Police State, in which cops are tasked not with keeping the peace but finding more crimes to prosecute. From Reason:
The Supreme Court heard oral argument [Wednesday] in the Fourth Amendment case Rodriguez v. United States. At issue is whether an officer "unnecessarily prolonged" an otherwise legal traffic stop when he called for backup in order to safely walk a drug-sniffing dog around the stopped vehicle. According to a previous Supreme Court ruling, the use of drug dogs during routine traffic stops poses no constitutional problems so long as the traffic stop is not "prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete that mission."
Okay, let's stop right there. What the hell does "not prolonged beyond the time reasonably required" actually mean? Does it mean something like this?
A Florida concealed carry permit holder had an unpleasant run-in with a Maryland police officer while traveling through the state. John Filippidis and his family drove from Florida to New Jersey last December for Christmas and a wedding. He knew he’d be traveling through states that aren’t gun-friendly, so he left his gun at home.
Filippidis was followed by a Maryland cop on I-95 after passing through the Fort McHenry tunnel. He said the cop flanked him, pulled ahead of him, and then got behind them. After about ten minutes of that, the officer pulled Filippidis over. The officer was from the Transportation Authority Police. He asked Filippidis for his license and registration. Around ten minutes later, he returned and asked John to exit his vehicle.
Of course, things went south from there. Back to Sotomayor:
According to Justice Department lawyer Ginger Anders, who argued yesterday in defense of the police, law enforcement is entitled to wide leeway when it comes to determining the amount of time that's "reasonably required" to conduct traffic stops. But that argument met with strong resistance from several members of the Court, particularly Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Indeed, Sotomayor went so far as to suggest that the Court's recent Fourth Amendment jurisprudence was flying off the rails due to its pro-police deference.
I have a real fundamental question, because this line drawing is only here because we've now created a Fourth Amendment entitlement to search for drugs using dogs, whenever anybody's stopped. Because that's what you're proposing. And is that really what the Fourth Amendment should permit?
...we can't keep bending the Fourth Amendment to the resources of law enforcement. Particularly when this stop is not—is not incidental to the purpose of the stop. It's purely to help the police get more criminals, yes. But then the Fourth Amendment becomes a useless piece of paper.
Conservatives have got to start walking back their knee-jerk support of the police state, and if a liberal like Justice Sotomayor wants to help them out, they should welcome her.