Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Fourth Amendment ruling will 'corrode' civil liberties

By Shawn Price  |  Updated June 21, 2016 at 12:49 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a fierce dissent Monday to a ruling in a Fourth Amendment case, arguing that the 5-3 majority opinion will allow police to stop citizens in ways that "corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives."

The case involved a Utah man who contested his arrest for a stop by police that was ruled unlawful. The high court ruled that evidence found on the man, Edward Strieff, could be used as evidence, even if the search of his person violated the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the court's opinion on behalf of himself, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined in Sotomayor's dissent. Justice Elena Kagan penned a different dissent.

Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, wrote the decision will affect all law-abiding citizens targeted by police, particularly minorities.

"It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny," she wrote. "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," she added. "It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged."

Sotomayor cited the Department of Justice's report on police misconduct in Ferguson, Mo., as well as books like Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me and James Baldwin's 1963 classic The Fire Next Time.

Sotomayor defended people "routinely targeted by the police," and argued "until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but."

The dissent by Sotomayor could signal more heat in the four upcoming decisions on affirmative action, abortion and immigration over the next week.

Supreme Court opinion on Utah v. Strieff by United Press International

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