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Supreme Court: Police Can Now Search You Without Probable Cause

In a blistering dissent, Justice Sotomayor called out her colleagues for living in a bubble

Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images

In December 2006, Salt Lake City cop Douglas Fackrell sat in his squad car watching a house he had reason to believe was a drug den. He’d received an anonymous tip about “narcotics activity” and, over the course of a week, spent about three hours surveilling the scene. Nothing illegal occurred, but people were coming and going at odd intervals. He decided to stop the next person to walk out, seeking more information and, perhaps, an easy arrest.


That man was Edward Strieff, and, as the State of Utah later conceded, Fackrell really had no reasonable grounds to search him. The stop was illegal. Even though Fackrell found a bag containing methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia, the Fourth Amendment should have excluded that evidence from court. Yet Strieff had an old warrant for a traffic violation, which Fackrell used to cover his tracks. The battle became Utah v. Strieff, and it went all the way to the top.

In a new decision that broke 5-3 along gender lines, the Supreme Court ruled against Strieff on Monday, concluding that an active warrant, however unrelated, is cause enough for a search. Justice Clarence Thomas handled the majority decision, writing that searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment if there is any warrant connected to the person being stopped.

Robert Bloom, a professor of law at Boston College Law School, said the decision was part of a trend. The exclusionary rule, which has historically been the remedy for addressing constitutional violations by police officers, has been eroding. “I’m not really surprised,” he told me. “Since the Warren court, since the 1970s, the Supreme Court has cut back on the exclusionary rule. It’s a continuum. In this case, the Court said, because of the lack of flagrancy of the violation, because there was a warrant, they’re going to allow it.”

The ruling drew a blistering dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote that police can now use the discovery of any warrant (one resulting from an unpaid parking ticket, for example) to search anyone at anytime, a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. “Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language,” she wrote. “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants––even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

Sotomayor went on to outline how warrants are almost universally issued for minor offenses. Using language that reflected the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Justice specifically cited influential black intellectuals W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates alongside urban environments like Ferguson, Mo., where 16,000 of 21,000 residents would be subject to arrest warrants as targets. There are 7.8 million outstanding warrants in the United States, she wrote, going on to add:

“The white defendant in this case shows that anyone’s dignity can be violated in this manner. But it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny. For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk”— instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights.”

In her closing lines, Sotomayor stated that “we must not pretend that countless people who are routinely targeted by police are ‘isolated.’ They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.”

According to Ric Simmons, the Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer Professor for the Administration of Justice and Rule of Law at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, the case is a big deal. “I certainly agree (I think every expert agrees) with Justice Sotomayor that this ruling forgives a certain category of Fourth Amendment violations,” he told me. “It widens one category of the exclusionary rule (the "attenuation doctrine") so that the courts can still use certain information even though it was obtained after illegal police conduct.”

But for Simmons, Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion that the ruling will result in more illegal stops goes too far. “Her logic is that police will now be more likely to conduct illegal stops just to see if they can find an outstanding warrant, since now they know that the warrant will allow them to search and any fruits of the search can be used as evidence,” he said. “I think that some police forces may engage in this behavior already, and some will continue to do so in the future, but this ruling itself will not encourage the practice.”

Many experts feel that the exclusionary rule has been so degraded that, eventually, it will need to be replaced with another mechanism to deter illegal police activity. But even with the appointment of a new judge (as Obama has tried to do with the centrist Merrick Garland), Monday’s ruling shows the Court will continue to have a majority continuing to chip away at the rule and, by extension, the Fourth Amendment.

The solution? Wait for conservative justices to retire and, in the meantime, do a search and make sure you don’t have any outstanding warrants. That unpaid ticket can truly haunt you, now more than ever.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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