Judge Bea calls out his colleagues

In a dissent from a Ninth Circuit denial of en banc review in Lopez-Rodriguez v. Holder, case no. 06-70868 (9th Cir. Aug. 7, 2008, r’hng en banc denied March 27, 2009), a case concerning the application of the exclusionary rule to civil deportation proceedings, Judge Bea authors an opinion that puts his view of the panel decision — specifically,the reasoning by which the panel reached its decision — rather bluntly.  

In [INS v. Lopez-]Mendoza [, 468 U.S. 1032 (1984)], the Supreme Court clearly held the exclusionary rule does not apply to bar illegally procured evidence from admission in a deportation hearing. Mendoza, 468 U.S. at 1050 (holding that the “balance between costs and benefits comes out against applying the exclusionary rule in civil deportation hearings”). The panel in Lopez-Rodriguez v. Mukasey (Rodriguez), 536 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2008), held precisely the opposite. How we got there is an interesting— and perhaps cautionary—tale. We seem to have turned Supreme Court plurality dicta into majority dicta simply by saying so. Then, we have applied that dicta, in a manner not consistent with the sole case cited in the dicta, to create a new rule—one never envisioned by either the Supreme Court majority or the plurality.

Judge Bea then provides detail of the 4-step analysis he claims the panel engaged in. That analysis is nicely summarized by attorney and blogger Gabriel Malor:

Step One is to dig through Supreme Court decisions for dicta (that is, non-binding editorializing) that is arguably on point. Step Two is to mischaracterize that dicta as binding and creating a new constitutional test. Step Three is to “rephrase” the new rule so as to reach wider conduct. Step Four is to impose the new rule, while acting as if it was obvious all along.

And if you don’t mind mild profanity (by today’s standards, anyway), and especially if you are usually in sync with Judge Bea, I think you’ll find it ‘s worth clicking on the link to Malor’s post just to read the title, which is even more blunt.

Judge Bea’s dissent is joined by three others, including original panel member Judge Bybee, who warned in his separate concurrence with the panel opinion that Ninth Circuit precedent “has set us on a collision course with the Supreme Court.” 

Supremes Grant Cert in Teen Student Strip Search Case

Remember all the blog coverage (and not just here) about school officials’ strip search of a 13-year-old Arizona student in a “zero-tolerance” motivated quest for that dreaded scourge, Ibuprofen?  I covered the original decision upholding the search here, noted the grant of rehearing here, and the en banc reversal here.  Here’s the en banc opinion: Redding v. Safford USD #1, case no. 05-15759 (9th Cir. (en banc) July 11, 2008).

SCOTUS granted cert Friday afternoon, so there is sure to be another burst of blog coverage about the case.  If you want to get up to speed while saving yourself some clicks, go straight to this synopsis by newly minted California lawyer “Gabriel Malor” (a pseudonym, for reasons he explains here).  (Don’t be misled by the “moronlogger” label in his sidebar.  He [assuming “Gabriel” is really a “he”] frequently provides very good, concise coverage of major legal developments at his blog, Gabriel Malor.)

It’s Now Official: It’s Not OK to Strip-Search a 13-Year-Old Girl for Ibuprofen

There was a lot of law blog coverage when a Ninth Circuit panel held that a strip search that required 13-year-old Savana Redding to expose her breasts and pubic region during a search for Ibuprofen did not violate her Fourth Amendment rights.  As I wrote in my post,  despite my gut- level reaction that the search was wrong, I found the majority opinion was well reasoned.  Still, the dissent won me over; it was even better reasoned and, while both opinions centered around New Jersey v. TLO (1985) 469 U.S. 325, the dissent was better supported by authority.  Along with my gut, that was enough, so I was among those happy to see en banc rehearing granted.

In today’s en banc opinion, Redding v. Safford USD #1, case no. 05-15759 (9th Cir. (en banc) July 11, 2008), the panel decision is reversed, but just barely.  The 6-judge majority opinion is notable for its graphic — and even poignant — description of the the search, which conveyed the degradation Savana must have felt.  The five dissenting judges split into two opinions.

I’m providing the entire introductory paragraph from the majority opinion because it so effectively tells you about the case and the holdings [citations omitted]:

On the basis of an uncorroborated tip from the culpable eighth grader, public middle school officials searched futilely for prescription-strength ibuprofen by strip-searching thirteen year-old honor student Savana Redding. We conclude that the school officials violated Savana’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The strip search of Savana was neither “justified at its inception,” nor, as a grossly intrusive search of a middle school girl to locate pills with the potency of two over-the-counter Advil capsules, “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances” giving rise to its initiation.

Not surprisingly, the search arose out of yet another “zero-tolerance” policy.  This one disallowed even over-the-counter drugs at school without prior permission.  Zero tolerance often leads to zero sense, so the court’s invocation of common sense in its discussion of whether Savana’s rights were established in the law at the time of the search (a factor relevant to immunity) really jumped out at me [citations omitted]:

Common sense and reason supplement the federal reporters. The T.L.O. Court expected no less of those to whom we entrust our children, leaving teachers to “regulate their conduct according to the dictates of reason and common sense.”  Simply put: “It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a thirteenyear-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights of some magnitude. More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”

It’s always a good thing when common sense and the Constitution converge.  It would have been really nice if this decision had come down last week, so Savana could have made it part of her Independence Day celebration.

I’ll update this post after I take a look at the dissents, which won’t be until later in the day.  I’m wondering if I’ll find both sides of the debate as rational as I did in the panel decision.

I’ll also update with additional links as I find other law bloggers writing about the case.

UPDATE (7/14/08):  Drug Law Blog calls the en banc decision “a little blow for sanity” and provides an excerpt regarding the supposed “prescription strength” nature of the Ibuprofen the search was for.   the   The School Law Blog provides links to coverage by the L.A. Times and ACLU. 

Reasonableness Governs Accidental Shooting Inquiry

A Glock 23, the external lever safety can clearly be seen behind the trigger.Image via Wikipedia

There’s an important legal point in Torres v. City of Madera, case no. 05-16762 (9th Cir. May 7, 2008). But before I could get to it, I had to get by my amazement at the facts, which are horrifying.

This Section 1983 action was brought by survivors of an arrestee who, while handcuffed and in the rear seat of a patrol car (and screaming and kicking at the back window), was shot and killed by a police officer who mistakenly unholstered and fired her Glock semi-automatic pistol instead of her Taser M26 stun device. The Court of Appeals called her Glock (a Glock is pictured right, though I don’t know if the officer had the same model) and Taser (pictured left) “similarly-sized-and-weighted,” and they were both holstered on her right side, the Glock on her belt and the Taser in a thigh holster. To add to this sad situation, the sequence of events was triggered by nothing more than a loud music complaint.

In this suit alleging a violation of the victim’s Fourth Amendment rights, the officer and the city moved for summary judgment, contending that because a Fourth Amendment seizure can occur only “through means intentionally applied,” and there was no dispute over the fact that the officer thought she was firing the Taser rather than the Glock, the firing of the Glock could not constitute a seizure. The Court of Appeals reverses, noting that the firing of the Glock itself does not constitute the seizure in this case because the victim had already been arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the patrol car. Under the Ninth Circuit’s “continuing seizure” rule, under which an initial seizure continues “throughout the time the arrestee is in the custody of the arresting officers,” the officer’s conduct remained governed by the Fourth Amendment throughout the course of the seizure, and liability requires only that the officer’s conduct was unreasonable, not that she had subjective intent to fire her Glock.

Maybe It’s Not OK to Strip Search a 13-year-old Girl for Ibuprofen After All

Last September, I covered (along with seemingly every other legal blogger) Redding v. Safford USD #1, case no. 05-15759 (9th Cir. Sept. 21, 2007), in which the Ninth Circuit held that a school’s strip-search of a 13-year-old girl for Ibuprofen, for crying out loud, was constitutionally permissible.  Today, the Ninth orders rehearing en banc.

For a round-up of coverage of the original opinion, see my original post.

An Arrest Warrant is an Arrest Warrant is an Arrest Warrant

At least, when it comes to whether the police may enter a residence when executing it.

In U.S. v. Gooch, case no. 06-30645 (9th Cir. Nov. 1, 2007), the defendant was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was arrested when reaching for firearms during the execution of a warrant for the search of his residence.

He claimed the search warrant was invalid because it was based on police officers’ observation of drug paraphernalia when they entered the residence to execute an arrest warrant for Gooch’s roommate. Gooch contended that because the arrest warrant was only a misdemeanor bench warrant for failure to appear, it did not authorize the police to enter the residence, and thus the observations of drug paraphernalia that were use to justify the search warrant were tainted..

The Ninth rejects the argument. Joining several other circuits, the court says that an arrest warrant of whatever stripe authorizes the police to enter a residence to the extent necessary to execute it so long as they have probable cause to believe the suspect is in the residence.

DNA Collection Survives Another Constitutional Challenge

DNA collection while on supervised release is constitutional, even if the terms of supervised release in your original sentence did not provide for it and the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act (“DNA Act”), which mandates it, became effective only after you were sentenced. In United States v. Lujan, case no. 02-30237 (9th Cir. Sept. 25, 2007), the court rejects arguments that collection under these circumstances violates the Fourth Amendment and Ex Post Facto Clause, constitutes an unlawful bill of attainder, and violates the separation of powers.

Lujan’s appeal was stayed pending the outcome in two other appeals, and the outcomes of those cases allow the Ninth to dispose easily of the first three challenges. Sentencing Law and Policy notes that with this decision the Ninth joins all other circuits that have “considered these and related issues,” and the first comment there calls the case “cleanup work” and notes that the Supreme Court denied certiorari just yesterday in United States v. Reynard (9th Cir. 2007) 473 F.3d 1008, which the Ninth relied upon in rejecting the Ex Post Facto Clause and bill of attainder challenges. (The other case relied upon was United States v. Kincade (9th Cir. 2004) 379 F.3d 813 (en banc).)

The separation of powers challenge requires a little more analysis from the court, as this question apparently has not been previously addressed. The court nonetheless dispatches it rather quickly. No separation of powers violation occurs by having the probation department, part of the judicial branch, collect the DNA. The probation office does not encroach on the executive branch because its role is limited to collection. It does not analyze the sample or use the results to investigate or prosecute other crimes. Moreover, the purpose of the DNA Act is consistent with the function of the judiciary because, by instilling a fear in defendants that their role in any future crimes will be quickly identified, it deters future crime and thus furthers two goals of supervised release: “rehabilitation and the prevention of harm to others.”

You can access the amicus brief filed in support of the government by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation here.

OK to Strip Search 13-Year-Old Girl for . . . Ibuprofen?

One look at that blog headline and it’s no surprise Friday’s Ninth Circuit decision in Redding v. Safford USD #1, case no. 05-15759 (9th Cir. Sept. 21, 2007) has garnerd some attention in the legal blogosphere.

Predictably, some of the reaction has been at a gut level. See, for example, California Appellate Report or Decision of the Day.

This is a section 1983 action by the 13-year-old girl against the school officials and the district for an alleged violation of her Fourth Amendment rights by searching her for pills. The search was initiated after a student claimed to have become ill from some pills distributed by the plaintiff and pills identified as prescription-strength Ibuprofen were found in the possession of plaintiff’s friend. Plaintiff was searched by two female officials in a locked room. While she was asked to stretch out the waistband of her underwear and her bra, she was not required to remove them.

The majority decision made logical sense to me — notwithstanding my initial revulsion at the thought of strip-searching a 13-year-old girl — for its straightforward analysis under New Jersey v. TLO (1985) 469 U.S. 325. The dissent, however, seems better reasoned and has more substantial precedential support.

The dissent seems to start on an absolutist note: “it does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child ia an invasion of constitutional rights of some magnitude. More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.” Slip Op. at 12870 (dissenting opinion of Thomas, J.), quoting Calabretta v. Floyd (9th Cir. 1999) 189 F.3d 808. But Judge Thomas goes on to a very convincing TLO analysis. He concedes that some degree of search would have been permissible, but the search in question, which required the plaintiff to expose her pubic area and breasts, went over the line.

The most thorough analysis I found on a blog is at California Criminal Lawyer Blog. There’s also news coverage at the Arizona Daily Star and Arizona Daily Sun.

UPDATE (9/25/07): Adjunct Law Prog Blog weighed in yesterday as well — all the way from New York. Interestingly enough, he likewise feels that the majority and dissent both had good arguments.

By the way, when I said that this case had “predictably” drawn some gut-level reactions, I meant both predictably and understandably. I wasn’t knocking the gut-level reactions. Just thought I should clear that up, especially since so many people are reaching this post from Decision of the Day.

The Reasonableness of Airport Screening: Consent, 9/11, and Terrorism

Here’s an interesting Fourth Amendment case from the Ninth Circuit today.  In United States v. Aukai, case no. 04-10226 (August 10, 2007), an en banc panel of the Ninth holds that the administrative search at airport screening, including enhanced secondary screening, is reasonable with or without consent once the person attempts to access the secure area of the airport, even if he says he no longer wishes to board a plane.

Aukai, after passing through the metal detector and having his personal effects screened without event as part of his entry to the secure area of the airport, was subjected to secondary screening because he had no ID.  This screening eventually turned up a glass pipe for smoking methamphetamine. He was arrested, and the search incident to arrest turned up several bags of meth.

The wrinkle: during the secondary screening, Aukai told the Transportation Security Administration officers that he no longer wished to board a plane, but the search continued.

The court finds the search is a constitutional administrative search even tough it continued past the time Aukai said he no longer wished to board the plane.  The court finds that passengers subject themselves to search as soon as they try to access the secure area of the airport.

The majority opinion invokes 9/11 and the terrorism threat to argue that if passengers could force cessation of the search, terrorists could probe for security weaknesses by revoking their consent just before discovery or have multiple opportunities to get through security.

Three judges write a concurring opinion saying that the majority should not have relied specifically on the terrorist threat.  They argue that the terrorism discussion is irrelevant and will only provide ammunition for future defendants to challenge the continuing validity of the “solid” holding once the terror threat subsides.

At California Appellate Report, Professor Martin explains why he thinks the case “is worth reading wholly apart from the merits. ”

Decision of the Day’s coverage is written from the perspective of someone who also blogged the original panel decision and the decision to hear the case en banc.  Rather interesting to read the posts in sequence.  The last includes an interesting observation about the authorship of the panel and en banc opinions.

Ninth Circuit Blog  writes, “and so the Constitution keeps on turning.”