Friday, June 4, 2010

Supreme Court Decisions Have Consequences

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a case out of Georgia, that it was reasonable for a police officer to ram a motorist being chased for a traffic violation. The motorist lost control of his vehicle and was seriously injured. Since the Supreme Court held that the officer's actions were reasonable, the motorist was denied any recompense due to the doctrine of qualified immunity.

Recently, I have been observing that many police vehicles now come equipped with front bumper extensions that are apparently designed to aid the driver of the police vehicle in ramming operations. I guess that, since the Supreme Court says it's ok, they want to be able to ram with impunity without damaging their police cruiser.

Someday, some happy day, the justices of the Supreme Court will realize that there are ramifications to the decisions they make. Or perhaps we will wise up and start electing presidents and senators who will appoint justices to the Court who come from a more "common" background.

Just one lawyer's opinion.


1 comment:

BHH, esq. said...

Scott v. Harris, an 8 to 1 decision, was absolutely decided correctly. Harris led police on a dangerous, high speed pursuit, putting the lives of everyone on the roads that evening into peril. It's not as if Harris ran a stop sign and an officer immediately rammed his car. Harris sped (over 130mph), he ran stop signs and traffic signals, he passed vehicles with oncoming traffic, bottom line, he refused to stop for a police officer. And why? Because he had a suspended license. The police didn't know that, however, for all they knew he was running because there were drugs in the car, a body in the trunk, etc.

If the SCOTUS had ruled against Scott, what incentive would there be for any motorist to stop? Being pursued? No problem. Accelerate into traffic.

High speed chases are inherently dangerous, but so are shoot outs. If we eliminate an officer's ability to pursue at high speed and use the "pit maneuver" - which is what was used to stop Harris - to end the pursuit and protect the general public, we should eliminate their ability to return fire when drawn down upon.

Incidentally, maybe they're new to Tennessee, but in every state I've been to, prior to Scott v. Harris, police vehicles were almost universally equipped with heavy duty bumpers (called bull guards commercially).

Don't fault the cops for doing their job. Section 1983 cases weren't meant for this situation. I'm sorry Harris is paralyzed, but maybe others will learn from his mistakes. You don't run from the flashing lights. You stop. You take your ticket. You call a ride. You pay your fine. You live to walk down the street tomorrow.

Just another lawyer's opinion.