Supreme Court Takes A Pass On A Chance To Firmly Establish A Right To Record Police Officers

from the I-guess-try-to-exercise-your-rights-in-circuits-where-they're-respected dept

After taking some positive steps towards trimming the growth of qualified immunity it had itself encouraged for years, the Supreme Court decided to reverse course. Two more cases on the court’s “shadow docket” were sent back to the appellate levels with instructions to reverse the stripping of qualified immunity from government employees accused of rights violations.

Note that refusing to grant qualified immunity does not guarantee a win for the plaintiff. All the removal of this immunity does is allow the court to consider more facts and place unresolved questions in front of a jury… you know, the sort of thing courts are supposed to be doing fairly often. Qualified immunity invocations short circuit the process, allowing courts to arrive at conclusions without further fact-finding by giving law enforcement officers the benefit of a doubt.

More bad news from the nation’s highest court has arrived. As Radley Balko puts it in his editorial for the Washington Post, the Supreme Court has chosen to abdicate its obligations to the Bill of Rights. (non-paywalled link here)

The Supreme Court, having created the problem of qualified immunity to shield police from being held liable for their misconduct, keeps refusing to fix it.

This week, 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.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals clearly blew that decision earlier this year. Despite multiple appellate courts having established or upheld a First Amendment right to record police officers, the Appeals Court decided there wasn’t enough circuit precedent to put Denver, Colorado police officers on notice that arresting a man and seizing his device simply because he was recording them was unconstitutional.

Additionally, the Tenth Circuit declared the cops could not have known this was unconstitutional despite having received specific training from their police department that explicitly said citizens have the right to record police and should not be prevented from doing so, much less arrested for doing so. The objective standard the Appeals Court applied said reasonable officers with this specific training would not have known that contradicting that training would result in rights violations.

The Supreme Court’s rejection of this case is inexcusable. It’s pretty difficult to generate a solid case that persuasively argues for an establishment of a right by the nation’s top court. This was one of the better ones. The Supreme Court had a chance to clearly establish a right to record government employees but chose to ignore it. That means cops in this circuit — even ones who have received explicit training advising them there’s an assumed right to record — can continue to harass and arrest people for filming them.

Radley Balko is right: this is an abdication of its responsibility to uphold the rights of citizens and act as a check against the government’s desire to see those rights curtailed.

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Comments on “Supreme Court Takes A Pass On A Chance To Firmly Establish A Right To Record Police Officers”

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16 Comments
That One Guysays:

When you're too gutless to admit your support...

More and more it’s looking like any pushback against police abuse of power were exceptions rather than the new rule and that the SC is still firmly in the corner of corrupt police but are too cowardly to actually come out and say it.

By refusing to hear the case not only have they signaled that they think the lower court got it right but they’ve made clear that they lack the honesty to say so outright and are content to just pretend that they’re not involved.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

this is an abdication of its responsibility to uphold the rights of citizens and act as a check against the government’s desire to see those rights curtailed

I don’t want to say this state of affairs exists because of the current 6–3 conservative majority, but they’re really not giving me much of a choice here.

Glennsays:

SCOTUS exists for one primary purpose: to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. If it’s going to fail to do that, then there’s no reason for it to even exist. Actually, simple legislation by Congress is no guarantee. SCOTUS could just as simply declare any legislation to be unconstitutional. When the highest court in the land actively works to subvert the laws of the land, there really is no hope for our laws or our rights.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: The F Word

"You know, we’re in the midst of a fascist takeover."

There are, according to Umberto Eco, 14 tangible points which define a state or organization as fascist. Some fascist states don’t even hit all of them. The US GOP, however, hits all 14 of them.

And unless liberals in the US get up and realize that they need to be prepared for the successor of Trump’s beer hall coup on january the 6th in 2024, they’ll wake up to a nation where the candidate who lost the race will be sworn in. Because he’s been very busy replacing all the weak links in his own party who used to march in lockstep with him and overturn the election last time.

Pot odds are it’ll be Trump – unless they have themselves a night of the long knives and come up with an alternative strongman to helm the nation.

It’s well past time for people to realize that not only can it happen here, it is happening here.

If the GOP take the house in 2022 that coup will happen in 2024.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Limiting the size of gatherings in the middle of a fscking pandemic when evidence shows the religious folk are superspreaders & daring to suggest masks… ROCKET SHADOW DOCKET!!!!!

Just because we gave them training that it was legal for them to be filmed & to NOT go after them is no reason for them to think they were violating someones rights… Rocket Docket… meh do it right.

We’re these the same Justices on a PR tour to pimp their books and try to pretend they weren’t political??

Texas – Where a virus has reproductive rights but not women.

Anonymoussays:

The objective standard the Appeals Court applied said reasonable officers with this specific training would not have known that contradicting that training would result in rights violations.

So it’s reasonable if officers violate rights if they’ve had no training whatsoever. Because they are apparently incapable of any critical thought beyond what they’re trained to do. And it’s also reasonable for officers to violate rights even when they’ve been trained because they’re unable to comprehend the training they’re given.

Any police officers out there care to comment on why you guys argue that you’re effectively incompetent without training as well as incompetent with training?

I mean, if you rely on your training and expertise when it suits you, this would certainly seem to undercut that, wouldn’t it?

That One Guysays:

'No one's dumber than a cop'- Countless US judges

The US courts have an interesting(read: grossly corrupt and insane) stance towards police, bouncing between treating them as quite literally the dumbest people in existence and highly trained experts with near psychic abilities who’s word can be more trustworthy than even video evidence.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Any police officers out there care to comment on why you guys argue that you’re effectively incompetent without training as well as incompetent with training?

For one, you’re not going to get them to admit they’re incompetent. But let’s briefly assume that you got one to talk. They’re going to trot out the usual excuses of:

  • Cops aren’t required to know the law they enforce, it’d strain their faculties too much
  • Cops are under such immense stress that the training they get doesn’t apply
  • Civilians keep disobeying them anyway

Hell, you won’t even need a cop to say the above. There’s no shortage of simps like restless94110 ready to throw themselves to the floor because a cop’s fee-fees might get hurt.

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