We start today's APR with reaction to Judge Scheindlin's ruling that New York City's stop-and-frisk program is discriminatorily executed and is therefore unconstitutional. The New York Times editorial board
provides its take:
Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court in New York upheld the bedrock principle of individual liberty on Monday when she ruled that the tactics underlying New York City’s stop-and-frisk program violated the constitutional rights of minority citizens. She found that the city had been “deliberately indifferent” to police officers illegally detaining and frisking minority residents on the streets over many years. [...] The judge made clear that she was not striking down the program — which remains an important tool for law enforcement — but requiring the city to use that tool in a way that does not discriminate against African-Americans and Hispanics and that comports with constitutional guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure. [...]
I. Bennett Capers
Mayor Bloomberg, who has steadfastly supported this corrosive and socially damaging program, seemed unchanged on Monday. He arrogantly dismissed the suit and this ruling as the work of “one small group of advocates — and one judge,” repudiating the outrage about stop-and-frisk that has been growing in the city for years.
He has promised to appeal, but, fortunately, he will be leaving City Hall soon. His successor should retract the appeal and begin the process of bringing New York City’s police practices in line with the Constitution.
adds his own take with an op-ed on the matter:
MY husband and I are about the same age and build, wear the same clothes and share the same gender, but I am far more likely to be stopped by the police. This isn’t because I have a criminal record or engage in furtive movements. Nor is my husband a choirboy. Statistically speaking, it’s because I’m black and he’s white. [...] even if these practices were constitutional, they’re still a bad idea. Of course, one wouldn’t know that listening to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other true believers, who insist that aggressive stop-and-frisks have reduced violent crime. But they’re wrong.
The most obvious reason is the brute numbers. For every 100 individuals stopped and frisked, only about 6 are arrested, often for minor offenses like marijuana possession. The success rate for finding a gun borders on the nonexistent: 1 in every 1,000 stops. In fact, purely random stops have produced better results. [...]
And there is a more important argument that isn’t captured by the numbers. Aggressive stop-and-frisks sow community distrust of the police and actually inhibit crime control, creating a generation of disaffected minority youths who believe that cops are racists.
Much more below the fold.
The other big story yesterday was the announcement by Attorney General Holder that DOJ prosecutors would alter strategies to lessen the impact of mandatory minimum sentences. The Los Angeles Times analyzes the situation:
Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Monday that federal prosecutors would be directed to file charges in a way that would spare many defendants from mandatory minimum sentences. That policy is a sound and compassionate response to the fact that too many people are being imprisoned for too long, by state and federal governments alike, because of a war on drugs that has been prosecuted not wisely but too well. [...]
Ideally, Congress would revisit the issue of mandatory minimums, and not just for drug crimes. In 1994, it did enact a "safety valve" law that instructs judges to disregard mandatory minimums if a drug defendant has little or no criminal history and meets several other exacting conditions. As Holder noted in his speech, legislation recently introduced in Congress would provide additional leeway for judges and would "ultimately save our country billions of dollars while keeping us safe." The attorney general said he and President Obama would work with Congress to advance such proposals, but he was right to act in the absence of congressional action. If members of Congress resent Holder's exercise of prosecutorial discretion to restore a sense of proportion to drug prosecutions, they can reassert their authority by accomplishing the same objective through legislation.
Turning to domestic spying, Eugene Robinson
doesn't believe President Obama's reform proposal is adequate:
The modest reforms Obama proposed do not begin to address the fundamental question of whether we want the National Security Agency to log all of our phone calls and read at least some of our e-mails, relying on secret judicial orders from a secret court for permission. The president indicated he is willing to discuss how all this is done — but not whether.
[...] I’ll believe Obama is serious about reforming the intelligence court when he calls for all its interpretations of the law — without details of specific orders that would tip off terrorists — to be made public.
And I’ll believe Congress is serious when it clarifies the Patriot Act and other laws to spell out that the Constitution still applies. The NSA’s capability to obliterate privacy is rampaging ahead. The law desperately needs to catch up.
Finally, over at The Nation
, Ari Berman
tells us about a draconian voter suppression law that's being challenged North Carolina:
Today, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed the nation’s worst voter suppression law. The sweeping law requires strict government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot, cuts the number of early voting days by a week, eliminates same-day voter registration during the early voting period, makes it easier for vigilante poll watchers to challenge the validity of eligible voters and expands the influence of unregulated corporate money in state elections.
Two lawsuits were filed today challenging the voting restrictions as racially discriminatory in federal court under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A third challenge, to the voter ID provision, will be filed in state court tomorrow morning. [...]
Challenging voting restrictions like voter ID, cuts to early voting and the elimination of same-day registration under Section 2 is largely uncharted territory, since the bulk of previous Section 2 challenges applied to redistricting. The Department of Justice, for example, hasn’t brought a Section 2 case since 2009. According to the DOJ, “a plaintiff could establish a violation of the section if the evidence established that, in the context of the ‘totality of the circumstance of the local electoral process,’ the standard, practice, or procedure being challenged had the result of denying a racial or language minority an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.” In practice, Section 2 cases are expensive, lengthy and usually apply to voting changes already in effect. But since the Supreme Court took away their most potent weapon for fighting voting discrimination, voting rights groups have no choice but to hope that the compelling and disturbing facts of this case persuade the courts to block the “monster” new law.