The imaginary “check em out” exception to the Fourth Amendment

The imaginary “check em out” exception to the Fourth Amendment

Law enforcement. Once in awhile needs reminders and refresher courses. On the constraints placed on them while on armed patrol in our communities.

There is no exception to the Fourth Amendment that permit hunches, generalized claims of lawlessness and disorder, broad brush strokes of “high crime area” that licenses law enforcement to check things out or perform a look see. With or without a warrant. Law enforcement is not the community baby sitter.  It is an armed, uniformed, trained force.  Authorized to enforce the law  … at gunpoint, and tragically, sometimes, by a gunshot to the head. Police must enforce the law….within the law. The ultimate Freedoms are at stake…not to be confined. And not to be dead.  Thus, law enforcement is subject to strict constitutional constraints. It simply has to be. We are not a militarized society.  As a result, they don’t get to go round just checking up on people.  That is not a legal act of enforcement. That’s babysitting. This ain’t nursery school.  This is our country. And man. We enjoy the greatest freedoms in the world. Let’s keep it that way.

The constitutional requirement of articulable facts of a minimum of reasonable suspicion for an minimal investigatory detention and articulable facts of probable cause for a full blown search of seizure is alive and well. It is the law of the land, including within localized parishes of Louisiana.

“The particular legal issue presented here has long been resolved by the United States Supreme Court in an unbroken line of cases cited often in the well-settled jurisprudence of this State. The issue is simple: Can a police officer conduct an investigatory stop and detain citizens otherwise legally operating motor vehicles on the public highways or private roads in this State solely because past crimes or suspicious activities have occurred in the area where motorists are traveling?

The answer is not even close: “No.”

THERE IS SIMPLY NO “CHECK-EM-OUT” exception to this Constitutional prohibition.

In this case there were no exigencies, i.e. there was no terrorist on the loose, no amber alert, no recent criminal activity in the area, no recent jail-break, no report of a truck matching the description of the one driven by Parker as being involved in any criminal activity. Officer Godwin could articulate nothing to establish a particularized and objective basis for suspecting Parker of criminal activity.” (Emphasis added)

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/la-court-of-appeal/1693755.html

Excerpt from the appeal of a black woman. Who fought a traffic stop. For six years. In Louisiana.

Following are links to this and another  Louisiana appellate decision. Both affirmed the continued viability in this state of the federal constitutional freedom from detentions, searches and seizures, predicated merely on hunches, vague or conclusory claims of high crimes and misdemeanors, and self enobled proclamations to take a “look see” or to “check em out.”

One is a one page grant of a writ which reversed the trial court’s upholding a warrant based on a sheriff’s desire to take a “look see” through a resident’s entire swath of computers and cell phones, including those of his child and wife, because an IP trace of an anonymous whistle blower site which identified some shenanigans within local government led to his home.  For an article on what happened, read this article.   Or this one from Louisiana Voice, by Tom Aswell, who bird dogged what happened.

The other decision, excerpted above, details the six year nightmare of a young black woman whom a deputy just wanted to check out. More details and analysis are available in an article posted by the Marshall Project.

 

 

 

 

At what price criminalized tail lights?

At what price criminalized tail lights?

An eyewitness said “it looked like they killed a cow”.

Three deputies. Beat this man to a pulp. In front of his wife. And his two children. Inside of his own store. From where he eked out a living. Beat him. Choked him. Pepper sprayed him. Threw his head through dry wall. Through a glass shop display case. Beat him and choked him again. And pepper sprayed him. Again. On his lacerations and wounds

Dragged him outside. Handcuffed him. Forced him to his knees. And never called for an ambulance.

What was the true impetus? Was it really the potentially expired license of the employee driving a store truck in the store’s parking lot? Nah. Per the script too often played out across our nation, that minor infraction was the deputy’s cover. His pass. For unleashing his hate. His hate of brown skin. And the fact the brown skinned sister of the store owner had committed other minor infractions without severe punishment….selling bags of oranges along roadsides and from medians. To willing and citrus desirous purchasers. That deputy also ran the guy’s name… Hoping to find some warrant for some minor traffic or driving violation. To further justify his felonious purpose. He found nothing, but an expired driver’s license.  The discretion lay with the deputy….and he was full of his authority that day, so he called for a tow truck.   And more.  He called for minions.  To help fulfill his stated felonious purpose. Calling the owner a chicken shit mother fucking Mexican and announced he was going to beat his ass.  And, with the help of his boys, boy, did he.

The deputies then arrested Mr. Navarro.  Delayed taking him to the hospital and once there, denied medical access for a few hours.  They booked him and the DA filed charges.  Upon filing what is known in California as a Pitchess motion (pursuant to which the state has to turnover the involved officers’ complaint histories), the DA dropped all charges and the case was dismissed in the interest of justice.

Read my opposition to summary judgment memorandum 8-7 OPP MSJ RAFAEL FINALx  I will also upload the supplemental opposition as the district court requested one to address further the nuances of one of the claims.

It is time for every town America to take a look. A deep. Hard. Serious look. At all those ordinances. That penalize the most minor of conduct. Every state America…too…take a look at the 1001 reasons cops pull people over everyday. Tags, lights, tinted windows, loud music, seat belts, turn signals, motor vehicle inspection stickers, a burnt out little light bulb over the license plate, etc.

Selling CDs and cigarettes. Little free libraries.  What great social harm is there? At what cost to society do we want such nonsense criminalized to the point people cannot pay their rent, and, worse, die?

Are these minor human “misbehaviors” worth the violence that can ensue? We always hear about how dangerous to an officer a vehicle, and even a pedestrian, stop can be…and we have all seen how dangerous it is to the driver, the passenger, and the pedestrian.  Well, the solution isn’t a trigger happy scared cop. Maybe the solution is to decriminalize the so called infraction. No. Stop. Allowed. For such minor government grievances.

Send a letter.  Give the person a few weeks to remedy the infraction.  Send a follow up letter, if necessary.  Advise that an appropriate and not some disproportionate fine will be imposed if the matter is not addressed.  Provide information on where a person could get help, if needed.  And in all cases, use discretion. Be mindful of the constitution.  Gah, how civil. That’s what Louisiana does for the far more serious environmental infractions committed every single day in the oilfields.  They send compliance letters….sometimes.  Less often, they send a follow up letter. And more often, they just look the other way. See the link, infra, to the legislative auditor report on the growing number of financially insecure orphaned wells taxpayers now are responsible for handling.  Perhaps it’s time to look the other way from innocuous human behaviors, just as we do corporate wrongs.  To decriminalize the minor human misbehaviors, just as most corporate wrongs are treated as mere infractions, worthy of but a letter.

One journalist aptly reminded us that the decision to conduct a stop, whether of a pedestrian or a car, is wholly within the officer’s discretion. Indeed, the Supreme Court has ruled there is no constitutional duty to arrest anyone, no matter what. In an article entitled, “It’s Time to End the Routine Traffic Stop,” the writer points to proper urban design and engineering as the smarter solutions speeding and reckless driving, not increased fines and penalties. I submit, simply timing traffic lights would eliminate a significant amount of vehicle speeding and recklessness, even distraction. The writer agrees that for other innocuous behaviors, it is far more proportional simply to mail a citation, perhaps complete with a photograph taken by the patrol car’s dash cameras.

While the state of Louisiana gives oil and gas a virtual pass, Louisiana’s local political subdivisions go nuts with their perceived powers….over absolutely nothing.  For those local to Shreveport, who can forget the insanity on public display when the local metropolitan commission threatened a resident with significant fines….over a little free library? Calling it a “commercial enterprise” and contending it violated the zoning ordinance, exposing the owner to a $500/day penalty.  And then witness our leaders engage in senseless gymnastics trying to cover this huge guffaw, with yet another ordinance?

Shreveport. Struck again. This time a man in a wheelchair rolling in the street because an officer saw he had something in his lap, thus, under a perverted view of Terry v. Ohio, a black man with something in his hand, might be a thief.   The officer left him with a citation for anther crime….”walking” in the street.   “Walking”!  In other words, for, “walking” while black.  It’s a crime in Shrevesville to walk anywhere but a sidewalk.  Keep in mind, this guy was using the street because  what Shrevesville called a sidewalk was fit only for cross country bike jumpers.

The Shreveport wheelchair stop…problematic  on so many levels.  The cop stopped him because he had something in his hands.  That, I submit, is not reasonable suspicion of anything  other than he has something of HIS, not a stolen object, in his hands.  Oh but we all have read police reports…he had something in his hands in a high crime neighborhood. A neighborhood ravaged by unemployment because of city policies that favor only the rich, friends, and families.   And we’ve all stood before judges who literally don’t give a hoot about the constitution, and who gavel such stops as reasonable. Every day. At what price to humanity?   The courts. Have been complicit.  Whittling away and de-fanging the fourth amendment, daily.

It is  past time for some Fourth Amendment dental work. The Guardian published an article noting that the erosion of the Fourth Amendment has led to more and more and more stops and searches, of vehicles and pedestrians.  The article is entitled Beyond #BlackLivesMatter: police reform must be bolstered by legal action.  Reform demands we revive the Fourth Amendment. The author implores indigent defense attorneys to challenge the line of decisions that whittled away the protections of the Fourth Amendment.  But first, don’t we need to pay indigent defenders fairly and lighten their loads down to at least ABA standards?  As an indigent defender, my caseload was more than double ABA standards, notwithstanding the direct order of the Louisiana Supreme Court long ago in State v. Peart.  And still…decades later….the indigent defense system is in tatters.

The obstacle to reform…is money.  Cold hard cash.  There’s a reason for high incarceration and citation rates.  Cash.

Louisiana. I’m looking at you. Louisiana is the incarceration capital of the world. Louisiana has the highest sales taxes in the nation. Shreveport, Louisiana, has the highest property taxes in the state. Every town here rapes its citizenry and visitors. Taxing the hell out of everyone, even its poorest, with fines, penalties, court costs. Why? To line city coffers so it can contract with favored ones? What kind of government does that? A bad one. A very bad one.

In spite of a constitutional directive to the state legislature to fund indigent defense, and to ensure indigent defendants have counsel AND to ensure indigent defense counsel are compensated, reasonably, Louisiana’s indigent defense system is in free fall.  I’ve sat in court and watched, as judges rattle off the words, “if you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint counsel, free of charge” and in the next breath, order an indigent defender who pleads to pay, in addition to fines and court costs, as much as $1000.00 to the indigent defense office.  An indigent defender … One who by definition cannot afford a lawyer.

I pulled some numbers from the 2015 Louisiana Supreme Court annual report.  Apropos Baton Rouge making some very ugly headlines right now, I pulled numbers for Baton Rouge, east Baton Rouge parish, and of course Shreveport and Caddo parish. These are the 2015 criminal and traffic filings for these four jurisdictions.  I included population figures for reference, relying on the United States census available at census.gov.

image

Just let those figures sink in   Over 90,000 traffic filings in Baton Rouge?  That is almost a 50% rate.  If you drive in Baton Rouge, flip a coin to determine if you’re gonna get stopped and summoned to a court date.

A recent article exposed the excessive practices of Gretna, Louisiana. Gretna police previously made horrific headlines during Katrina, firing on folks who attempted to get out of flooded New Orleans by walking across the bridge to Gretna. Gretna police stopped them. With force. Now Gretna made headlines, again.  This time for its excessive policing and fine practices, imposed on its own residents. It is the arrest capital of America.

“An expensive, years-long entanglement with this [Gretna] system can begin with an alleged infraction as minor as turning without a blinker. Eric Cado, a 25-year-old black man, was pulled over in November 2011 in Jefferson Parish for not wearing a seatbelt. After a series of missed court dates, unpaid fines, subsequent warrants for his arrest and a day in jail, Cado owed $1,200 plus the $500 bond for his release, which he finally paid off in 2014.

***

“In 2013, Ferguson took in $2.46 million in municipal court fines and fees, or close to $117 for every resident. By comparison, Gretna, which is slightly smaller than Ferguson, took in $5.77 million in municipal court fines and fees—or about $324 per resident—in its 2013-14 fiscal year, according to Gretna’s 2014 fiscal year financial report. (Gretna’s finance director disputes this figure, arguing that it is $2.12 million, but has refused to explain her calculation. Norton Francis, a senior research associate with the Urban Institute’s State and Local Finance Initiative agreed that Fusion’s calculation and the comparison with Ferguson are accurate.)”

Meanwhile the state government imposes, what, a $25 fine on the oil and gas industry for far more serious operations or environmental ills? Worse, it doesn’t even perform its duty to inspect wells to ensure compliance, as detailed in this legislative auditor report.  Oh my.  The report notes Louisiana only bothered to collect approximately $130,000.00 in fines.  And, as further documented by the Louisiana Legislative auditor, the State then never bothers to collect half the taxes and royalties due it from the industry. The lobby group behind all this, always has an “explanation;” meanwhile, legislators who try, see their bills killed.

Why isn’t DNR and the Office of Conservation armed with military gear like street cops…and out enforcing what few regulations we have against the industry? Law enforcement does not hesitate to don that gear to execute warrants for even innocuous offenses, including missing a court date or getting behind on fines and court costs.

In a report ironically and timely entitled “Excessive Fine Enforcement,”  in 2007, the Louisiana legislative auditor looked into Louisiana’s 250 plus so called “mayors courts” … which tax the hell out of anyone passing through or living there (read about the woman who spent six years fighting a Louisiana mayor’s court traffic ticket)…. and did nothing; zero; nada; notwithstanding the auditor acknowledged the unconstitutionality of using courts and fines and court costs to fund towns. (I have discussed that in another blog post, that asks, Is Louisiana Broken?) As the auditor reported, he can’t even discern how many millions of dollars these mayors courts take in, because the data they report is inconsistent.

Somewhat contradictorily to that report, in 2014, the legislative auditor, in a quest to encourage stricter enforcement and collection of fines and court costs, by parish/district courts, gathered information on the court costs brought in by parish/district courts (not including municipal courts), again noting it cannot be sure it is accurate, (due to failures in reporting); it reported that those courts collected court costs and fines in excess of $100,000,000.00, annually. The auditor also recommended that district courts do more to collect more.

Meanwhile, the state of Louisiana collected $238 million in mineral royalty revenue.  Apropos the figures outlined above, it seems ludicrous for any state office to advocate for more fines on the backs of one of the poorest electorates in the nation.  Especially since it cannot be bothered to collect severance taxes due it from oil and gas operators.

Something is terribly wrong.  Violations by oil and gas companies, including environmental, are simply overlooked; meanwhile, parishes and towns and mayors courts are raking in serious cash off the backs of citizens.

The U.S. Department of Justice scolded Ferguson, for these very practices, in its report issued upon its investigation into Ferguson, stating “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community.” Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department (Mar 4, 2015).

In 2016, the DOJ issued a letter to every town, America, telling them, to knock these practices off. Until we take the profit out of so called criminal justice, nothing will change.  The people cannot take this, anymore.  It’s oppressive.  It’s bad for business.

In the aftermath of the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I am not alone in raising these issues.  Salon posted a great article at this link.   A Yale law professor’s view was published by the Atlantic at this link.


Epilogue. July 2016 Mayhem.  All of this leads to the mayhem we are witness to, right now, July, 2016.  We’ve seen our civil rights whittled away by congress and SCOTUS. The fourth amendment? Hah, look what Thomas did in Utah v Strieff. And, now, but a shell voting rights act remains…the Court butchered it. Think prosecutors and courts are the answer?  Could be, but not.  Prosecutorial misconduct…is an epidemic and the courts sit on their robes, per Alex Kozinski, a respected jurist and brilliant legal mind (I discuss prosecutorial problems in another post where I ask, is Louisiana broken and in a post about prosecutorial misconduct and spoliation.

Meanwhile. We can’t regulate banks. Oil and gas industry gets a pass. Fracking is exempt from clean air and water acts, but not your sprinkler run off. But, cities and towns every town America, have criminalized innocuous behaviors, fining, penalizing, even locking folks up..for minor infractions…and what for? Profit for the city and its favored ones. Cops use all these infractions as ruses to shake people down. Police departments militarized. As politicos preach fear. 9-11, the terrorist, the Muslim, crime, the this boogeyman, the that boogeyman…as unions were busted, wages fell, and our shift away from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, where service is non existent. Folks working at low paying jobs, sometimes two sometimes more. Rents and housing prices rising. Every thing prices rising. Groceries. Milk is $5/gallon. Where I live unemployment is real and if you’re lucky to find work, it might pay at best $600 a week. And then you get a parking ticket. A busted tail light. Fines and court costs total $700. Ya can’t pay you go to jail. And there goes that great job.

Our economy? From manufacturing. To non service service. To the incarceration capital of the world. Video after video of folks shot, beat, kicked. While politicians travel, and gavel, and babble. And only ensure guns are everywhere. Open carry. The Dallas sniper walked right by crowds with his weapon(s).

In sum, this is an epidemic that was born in Los Angeles, with its paramilitary style of policing, that has swept our nation, due to two stupid wars and excess military surplus gear sold to police departments of every town, America, and paid for with economic stimulus money and the fact that this nation, the highest incarceration rate in the world, has monetized policing, imprisonment, and criminal justice, while gutting indigent defense, leaving folks helpless and hopeless.

 

Post script.   Read this study to learn just how hopeless folks left out of the economic wave and caught up over and over with stops and fines feel:

unemployment_personality_change_jap_finalaccepted

 

kaboom.

Is Louisiana Broken?

Is Louisiana Broken?

 

This is a blog post that will require much amendment and addition. Sadly.  The headlines of just this last year…. Tell a sad tale. From an official thrown in jail for scoffing public record requests and court orders … to SCOTUS by per curiam opinion overturning yet another Louisiana criminal conviction “because the Louisiana courts have proven to be repeat offenders; they repeatedly fail to appropriately enforce prosecutors’ Brady obligations” ….. to Grand Isle…where it seems half the town’s government is under indictment.

Just today, June 30, 2016, a news report: The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended two 18th Judicial District Court judges due to misconduct.  Judge Free.  And Judge Best.  One for relieving a convicted sex offender of some probation time due to a personal relationship. The other for engaging in ex parte communications with alleged victims.

Sheriff Ackal of Iberia Parish, has been indicted for violation of federal civil rights laws.  “The case against Ackal stems from the alleged beatings of inmates who were detained while awaiting trials. Ackal allegedly ordered other officers to carry out attacks in the jail’s chapel because there are no security cameras in there. He is charged with two counts of conspiracy against rights and two counts of deprivation of rights under the color of law, and faces up to 10 years in prison for each count. Nine deputies have already pleaded guilty to related charges.”  see following link.  After meeting with the prosecutor, hE not only was recorded making anti-Semitic comments about the federal prosecutor, he apparently threatened to shoot him between his eyes.

[UPDATE  November, 2016. Sheriff Ackal was found not guilty on all four counts by a federal jury trial.  The investigation did reveal a lot of what Ackal describes as “rogue” cops who beat inmates and planted narcotics on suspects]

November, 2016, edit to add  Louisiana Supreme Court overturned a death sentence in the Crawford case, not because of a paucity of evidence (and there was), not because of suspect pathology reports/testimony, not because Cox argued to the jury that Jesus commanded the death sentence, not because Cox wrote a memo to the department of probation and parole, demanding Crawford suffer as much as humanly possible, but it was overturned because Blacks were systematically excluded from the jury.  The trial took place in the district with the most death sentences per capita than any other county/parish in the nation, some 77% of them Black defendants, tried by a prosecutor who obtained 1/3 of the death sentences between 2011 and 2015, and who, after much national publicity, did not run for district attorney last term.  Notably, a lost cause monument all but blocks the entrance to that courthouse

A civil lawsuit (though oddly and inexplicably, no criminal action by local law enforcement) is still is making its way, at the speed of a snail stuck in quicksand, against caddo parish commission and commissioners, for flaunting the Louisiana constitution and its own home rule charter, voting for themselves against the dictates of law a generous retirement fund, with up to sixteen percent taxpayer matching funds, raises, and a $15,000 annual travel fund.  Interestingly, an elected official from another parish got a taste of the law for doing the same type of thing… (See link above)…yet in caddo?  Seems different rules prevail.  The commission didn’t stop dipping into public fisc for retirement until after the second letter scolding them from the Louisiana legislative auditor office

Nevermind the shameful manner the Louisiana legislature ignores the funding crisis of the indigent defender offices. I’ve watched  in court   As judges advise indigent defendants of their right to a lawyer, free of charge, if they cannot afford one and turn around in the next breath and order the poor to pay the indigent defender office as much as $1,000.

And, once again, another death penalty conviction is up at the Supreme Court out of Louisiana because yet again, prosecutors withheld material evidence from the defense.  Of course they did.  Per the linked article:

“IN A LOUISIANA case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, lawyers for a death row inmate named David Brown are asking the justices to put a stop to what the outspoken jurist and author Alex Kozinski has called an “epidemic” of prosecutorial misconduct. One of the most common forms of such misconduct is the withholding of evidence that might exonerate or mitigate the guilt of a defendant. Failure to turn it over, according to the court’s seminal 1963 decision Brady v. Maryland, is a violation of due process. Brown’s lawyers argue that nothing less is at stake in their client’s case than the future of Brady and the right to due process in criminal proceedings.

Although prosecutors have bristled at Kozinski’s charge, there is certainly plenty of evidence to back up his claim. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a project at the University of Michigan Law School, 933 of the nearly 1,800 exonerations to date involve official misconduct by prosecutors, police, or other government officials. Thirty-five of those exonerations come from the state of Louisiana alone, where prosecutors have a dismal record of complying with their legal obligations. According to Pace University School of Law professor Bennett Gershman, a leading expert on prosecutorial misconduct, many of Louisiana’s prosecutors “have an incomplete and even warped understanding of the Brady rule, and their enforcement of their Brady duty is deficient.” In Kozinski’s estimation, it is the duty of the courts to solve the misconduct problem. “Only judges can put a stop to it.”

For more on the brilliant jurist, Alex Kozinski, read this article by Slate and more at this LA Times article, which also links to the youtube video of oral argument.  (Yeah, the Ninth Circuit now uploads oral arguments to a youtube channel!).

[update   SCOTUS declined to hear Brown’s case and the Louisiana court ruling which overturned a lower court’s reversal of the death penalty, now stands]

Not Louisiana courts: they never get it right under Brady. They give prosecutors  judicial license to do as they wish, without regard for the law. The courts here made up their own rule: defense must show the verdict would have been different had the prosecution not violated due process   (Worse, some Louisiana judges treat a Brady violation as a mere civil discovery transgression and apply a harmless error standard).

Brady v. Maryland has been around. A long time. No sitting judge can not know it.  Here is the holding:

“‘The suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment,’ Justice William Douglas wrote for the majority.”

The test is this:  “Evidence is material under Brady if it creates “a ‘reasonable probability’ of a different result.” Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 434 (1995). “A reasonable probability does not mean that the defendant ‘would more likely than not have received a different verdict with the evidence,’ only that the likelihood of a different result is great enough to ‘undermine[] confidence in the outcome of the trial.” Smith v. Cain, 132 S. Ct. 627, 630 (2012) (quoting Kyles, 514 U.S. at 434). To say that the undisclosed information wasn’t material, a court must conclude that the other evidence was so overwhelming that, even if the withheld evidence had been presented to the jury, there would be no “reasonable probability” that it would have acquitted. This standard isn’t satisfied if “the State’s argument offers a reason that the jury could have disbelieved [the undisclosed evidence], but gives us no confidence that it would have done so.” Id.”

U.S. v. Olsen, No. 10-36063 (9th Cir. 2013)(Kozinski, J., dissenting). Sadly, too many judges get the test  dead wrong.

What happened to the judicial system here?  At one time, Louisiana had brilliant jurists.  True jurists.  Now?  It seems the bench is filled with Just for oil and gas industries and mischievous prosecutors.

Louisiana:  Broke and squandering public fisc and taking from the poor, Constitution be damned, for public misdeeds….  And worse, monetizing justice for self interest   The nation’s incarceration capital, Louisiana, profitized every aspect of criminal justice  it’s just another derivative market to line pockets

Until we take the profit out of so called criminal justice, nothing will change. (P.s.  Someone needs to ensure the DDA gets this DOJ memo)
The DOJ gets it.  Finally  after Ferguson  … But how can the DOJ possibly monitor every aspect of Louisiana’s “justice” system?  It has a nation to run.

Meanwhile, our legislative auditor looked into excessive fine enforcement across Louisiana towns back in 2007…. and did nothing.  read the report and know that the legislature…did NOTHING. It allows these backwoods Boss Hogg backwood justice courts (only Louisiana and Ohio have “mayor’s courts”) AKA mayor’s courts to run roughshod over folks.  I haven’t read it yet, but a Louisiana lawyer wrote a book detailing the constitutional failure of these mayor’s courts,

available for about $4.00 here.  Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 2.28.19 PMThis is the book’s synopsis:

The Mayor’s Court is Louisiana’s most numerous type of court, with about 250 of these courts across the state, yet very little appears to be known about them. Out of the fifty states, only Louisiana and Ohio still use these courts. Under this system of informal tribunals, a town mayor essentially acts as prosecutor, judge, and jury to enforce municipal ordinances. There is no requirement that a mayor presiding over one of these courts should possess a law degree or have any legal training. Likewise, the inherent duty of mayors to raise revenue creates a potential bias that could cause mayors to convict defendants solely for financial gain. Although their existence is vested under the Louisiana Constitution, there is very limited statutory guidance or procedural safeguards to govern these courts. Many of the few attempts that have been made to interpret laws governing these courts have been misguided and have lead to incorrect court decisions. As a result, the possibility exists for defendants before these courts to be unfairly convicted. This book provides an overview of the mayor’s courts in Louisiana and examines a few due process concerns that arise from these courts’ existence.

A woman spent SIX YEARS fighting an unconstitutional stop in one little Louisiana town that rakes in $$$ with unconstitutional practices.

Contradictorily to its  “Excessive Fines” report on mayors courts, linked above, the Louisiana legislative auditor encouraged district courts to be more aggressive in collecting fines and court costs, which the auditor estimated to exceed $100 Milliom a year.  Gretna got the message.  It is now the arrest capital of the nation.

Louisiana. I. Am. Looking at you. The incarceration capital of the world.

Louisiana — Highest sales taxes in the nation.

Shreveport — highest property taxes in the state.

Every town here rapes its citizenry and visitors. Taxing the hell out of everyone, even its poorest, with fines, penalties, court costs. Why? To line city coffers so it can contract with favored ones? What kind of government does that? A bad one. A very bad one.

A recent article exposed the excessive practices of Gretna, Louisiana. Gretna police previously made horrific headlines during Katrina, firing on folks who attempted to get out of flooded New Orleans by walking across the bridge go Gretna. Gretna police stopped them. With force. Now Gretna made headlines, again.  This time for its excessive policing and fine practices, imposed on its own residents. It is the arrest capital of America.

“An expensive, years-long entanglement with this [Gretna] system can begin with an alleged infraction as minor as turning without a blinker. Eric Cado, a 25-year-old black man, was pulled over in November 2011 in Jefferson Parish for not wearing a seatbelt. After a series of missed court dates, unpaid fines, subsequent warrants for his arrest and a day in jail, Cado owed $1,200 plus the $500 bond for his release, which he finally paid off in 2014.”

And how can DOJ effect change, when the supreme court itself  Facilitates police abuse?

Just recently, Justice Thomas … Gutted the Fourth Amendment, applying a whole new test…that contravenes fifty years of precedence since Terry v Ohio, in the startling ruling of Utah v Strieff.

And while the courts and prosecutors sit on their hands, another man is shot dead in Louisiana.

It’s time.  Time to completely decriminalize minor traffic and other infractions. Expired plates. Expired Motor vehicle inspection stickers. Walking in the street, even when there’s no functional properly maintained sidewalk.  Loud music.  Simple trespass.  Loitering. etc.

They’re all just excuses to profit off of others minor mistakes. To hassle people and to kill black people. Just take a picture or write a report, and send a ticket in the mail.

As discussed in another blog post, Louisiana can’t or just won’t regulate oil and gas. But it can manage to criminalize the most innocuous minor of behaviors.

Not for enjoyment,

Kathryn S. Bloomfield

p.s.  Regarding the featured image:  I found it via http://www.writerscafe.org/writing/jasonx72/247709/  After a Google search for copyright free images of lady liberty crying.  I cannot confirm it is copyright free. I provide the source I used, but do not know if that is the owner. If it is not copyright free, I will immediately take it down.