SCOTUS Yesterday Made It Easier To Sue Police & Big Companies
March 26, 2021
SARCASM FROM SCOTUS|
The Supreme Court yesterday made it easier to sue the police, ruling in favor of a New Mexico woman who had been shot by police when they had come to arrest someone else. As CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS explained in the court’s majority opinion, “The question in this case is whether a seizure occurs when an officer shoots someone who temporarily eludes capture after the shooting.” According to Roberts and four other justices, the answer is yes. Robert Barnes with The Washington Post reports, “Conservative JUSTICES CLARENCE THOMAS and SAMUEL A. ALITO JR. joined an occasionally sarcastic dissent by JUSTICE NEIL M. GORSUCH, which implied that the majority was looking for a way to rule for the woman because of recent concern over police shootings. ‘The majority holds that a criminal suspect can be simultaneously seized and roaming at large,’ Gorsuch wrote, adding, ‘It’s a seizure even if the suspect refuses to stop, evades capture, and rides off into the sunset never to be seen again. That view is as mistaken as it is novel.'”
INTENTION IS EVERYTHING|
But as Ariane de Vogue with CNN explains, CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS argued for the majority that the “application of physical force with the intent to restrain” is a seizure, even if the person “does not submit and is not subdued.” The case will now go back down to the lower court to determine if the police officer’s actions in the case were reasonable under the Constitution. JUSTICE AMY CONEY BARRETT was not yet at the Supreme Court when the case was argued so she was not included in the 5-3 decision.
Mark Joseph Stern with Slate argues it’s surprising to see JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH reach the conclusion he did in the New Mexico police case, Torres v. Madrid. “The justice has a libertarian streak with regard to criminal justice, yet here, he took an uncompromising stance in favor of police power,” Stern writes. “On the other hand, ROBERTS’ vote is not surprising given his tendency to safeguard ‘personal security,’ as he put it in Torres, against government invasion. What’s unexpected is that KAVANAUGH, who often takes a law-and-order view, cast the decisive vote in favor of greater Fourth Amendment rights.” Stern suggests that although it’s unlikely this case will end unjustified policing, “It is the rare ruling that gives courts more power to hold reckless cops accountable.”
HAVE YOU DRIVEN A FORD LATELY|
SCOTUS yesterday also made it easier for consumers to sue manufacturers of products that have caused them injury. Adam Liptak with The New York Times reports, “The high court ruled unanimously that courts have jurisdiction over lawsuits filed in consumers’ home states notwithstanding that the products were made and sold elsewhere so long as the manufacturers did substantial business in the states.” The case stemmed from two accidents involving cars made by Ford Motor Company — one that took place in Montana and the other in Minnesota. Ford argued they couldn’t be sued in those states because it didn’t have a relevant connection to them. But JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN said for the court, “By every means imaginable — among them, billboards, TV and radio spots, print ads and direct mail — Ford urges Montanans and Minnesotans to buy its vehicles, including (at all relevant times) Explorers and Crown Victorias.” It doesn’t matter, she said, that Ford made and sold particular vehicles in different states.
'CAUSE YOU'RE EVERYWHERE TO ME|
Pete Williams with NBC News also covers the Supreme Court’s decision in the Ford case noting, “Ford said it could be sued only in states where the vehicles were actually designed, manufactured or sold. The company originally sold the cars at issue in these two cases in other states. But the court ruled that because Ford markets, sells, and services its products nationwide, state courts can consider product liability lawsuits against the company. The opinion, by JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, said Ford is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Michigan, ‘but its business is everywhere.'”