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Supreme Court okays strip searches for traffic fines

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Your Supreme Court at work. Five-four decision (natch). Do you think this decision will be used by some to target more blacks than whites, more women than men, more Latinos? Or to intimidate Occupyers? (So do I.)

Via the Guardian (my emphasis and paragraphing):

The US supreme court ruled on Monday that jails do not violate privacy rights by routinely strip-searching everyone, even those arrested on minor traffic offenses. By a 5-4 vote and splitting along conservative-liberal ideological lines, the high court ruled that privacy rights involving the searches were outweighed by security concerns by jails about a suspect hiding drugs, weapons or other contraband.

Writing the opinion for the court's conservative majority, justice Anthony Kennedy concluded the jail search procedures struck a reasonable balance between inmate privacy and the needs of the institution.
You remember Kennedy, don't you? He's the great "centrist" hope.

The case on which this was decided is particularly egregious.
Attorneys for Albert Florence, who was strip-searched twice at two New Jersey jails in a six-day period after his arrest for an unpaid traffic fine, argued jailers must first have reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
I've seen reports [see update below] that not only had he paid the fine, but he had proof of that in the car — 'cause, you know, driving-while-black and all. Didn't matter, apparently, to Mr Moderate-Justice Kennedy.

Oh, and not to forget, this tickled my fancy as well:
The decision was a victory for ... the Obama administration, which argued for an across-the-board rule allowing strip-searches of all those entering the general jail population, even those arrested on minor offenses.
Cornel West, anyone? (Just asking.)

Your SCOTUS news of the day. For more information, watch this excellent Maddow Show segment — she interviews the subject of the case and provides her thoughts.


UPDATE: Here's the report that Mr. Florence had proof of payment in his glove box at the time of his arrest. Wash Post:
He spent seven days in jail because of a warrant that said, mistakenly, that he was wanted for not paying a court fine. In fact, he had proof that the fine had been paid years earlier; he said he carried it in his glove box because he believed that police were suspicious of black men who drove nice cars.
Driving While Black? Only the arresting officer knows for sure.


(To follow on Twitter or to send links: @Gaius_Publius)

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