[Blackstudies-l] In Dissents, Sonia Sotomayor Takes On the Criminal Justice System

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Tue Jul 5 12:16:46 EDT 2016


ivetteromero posted: " Adam Liptak (The New York Times) underlines the
directness of (Puerto Rican) Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s pertinent dissents
(eight), calling her an “increasingly skeptical student of the criminal
justice system, one who has concluded that it is clouded by"
Respond to this post by replying above this line
New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/ivetteromero/> In Dissents, Sonia
Sotomayor Takes On the Criminal Justice System
<http://repeatingislands.com/2016/07/05/in-dissents-sonia-sotomayor-takes-on-the-criminal-justice-system/>
by
ivetteromero <http://repeatingislands.com/author/ivetteromero/>

*[image: sonia05bar-master768]*

*Adam Liptak (The New York Times) underlines the directness of (Puerto
Rican) Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s pertinent dissents (eight), calling her an
“increasingly skeptical student of the criminal justice system, one who has
concluded that it is clouded by arrogance and machismo and warped by bad
faith and racism.” And check out Sotomayor’s reading list on the
African-American experience: W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk,
James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow,
and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me.* *Here are excerpts of
Liptak’s article:*

The Supreme Court term had barely gotten underway in early November when
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued her first dissent
<http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-1143_f20h.pdf>. A police
officer’s “rogue conduct,” she wrote, had left a man dead thanks to a
“‘shoot first, think later’ approach to policing.”

Justice Sotomayor went on to write eight dissents before the term ended
last week. Read together, they are a remarkable body of work from an
increasingly skeptical student of the criminal justice system, one who has
concluded that it is clouded by arrogance and machismo and warped by bad
faith and racism.

Only Justice Clarence Thomas wrote more dissents last term, but his agenda
was different. Laconic on the bench, prolific on the page and varied in his
interests, Justice Thomas is committed to understanding the Constitution as
did the men who drafted and adopted it centuries ago.

Justice Sotomayor’s concerns are more contemporary and more focused. Her
dissents this term came mostly in criminal cases, informed as much by
events in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 as by those in Philadelphia in 1787.

She dissented again in January, from Justice Antonin Scalia’s final
majority opinion
<http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-449_9o7d.pdf>. Joined by no
other member of the court, she said the majority in three death penalty
cases might have been swayed by the baroque depravity of the crimes.

“The standard adage teaches that hard cases make bad law,” she wrote. “I
fear that these cases suggest a corollary: Shocking cases make too much
law.”

Nine days after Justice Scalia died in February, on the day the eight
remaining members of the Supreme Court first returned to the bench, Justice
Sotomayor laid the groundwork
<http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/14-1373_mlho.pdf>
for
her most important dissent of the term.

The question in the case, Utah v. Strieff, No. 14-1373, was whether
prosecutors could use evidence obtained by the police after illegal stops.
A lawyer for the state told the justices that the Constitution allowed this
if there had been an outstanding arrest warrant for the person the officer
happened to stop.

There is logic to the position. The warrant existed before the illegal
stop. It called for the suspect’s arrest. Searching people in the process
of arresting them is prudent and constitutional. The contraband the Utah
officer found was real. There may be better ways to discourage unlawful
stops than by suppressing evidence. But, as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
wrote, “the life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”

At the argument in February, Justice Sotomayor asked the first six
questions, ripping into the state’s lawyer with real-world experience
rooted in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“What stops us,” she asked, “from becoming a police state and just having
the police stand on the corner down here and stop every person, ask them
for identification, put it through, and, if a warrant comes up, searching
them?”

A moment later, she answered her own question.

“If you have a town like Ferguson, where 80 percent of the residents have
minor traffic warrants out, there may be a very good incentive for just
standing on the street corner in Ferguson and asking every citizen, ‘Give
me your ID, let me see your name.’”

Last month, Justice Thomas, writing for a five-justice majority, accepted
the state’s logic.

Justice Sotomayor, a former prosecutor who grew up in a housing project in
the Bronx, responded with an unusually direct dissent.

“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.”

“If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay,” she
continued, “courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into
evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you
on the warrant.”

In many communities, she said, the tactics the court endorsed will allow
the police to search people almost at will. “It is no secret that people of
color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny,” she wrote.

She cited precedents, naturally. But she also named major works on the
African-American experience: W. E. B. Du Bois’s “The Souls of Black Folk,”
James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim
Crow” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me.” [. . .]

For full article, see
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/05/us/politics/in-dissents-sonia-sotomayor-takes-on-the-criminal-justice-system.html


*ivetteromero <http://repeatingislands.com/author/ivetteromero/>* | July 5,
2016 at 9:45 am | Tags: criminal justice system
<http://repeatingislands.com/?tag=criminal-justice-system>, Sonia Sotomayor
<http://repeatingislands.com/?tag=sonia-sotomayor> | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/?cat=103> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-pTX

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