The DOJ is Alive

It’s not that the Eric Holder had an epiphany, discovering that he’s a Democratic Attorney General and that the people who elected his boss had an interest in the Department of Justice supporting adherence to the Bill of Rights.  Then again, the cause may not be entirely lost.

Via the Baltimore Sun :

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has urged a federal court to side with a Howard County man in a lawsuit over his cellphone being seized by Baltimore police at the Preakness Stakes after he filmed officers making an arrest.

The federal attorneys say the lawsuit “presents constitutional questions of great moment in this digital age.” They asked U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg to rule that citizens have a right to record police officers and that officers who seize and destroy recordings without a warrant or due process are violating the Fourth and 14th amendments.

That the ACLU, representing the plaintiff in the case, Christopher Sharp, supports the right to video cops will surprise no one. But that the DOJ is backing them up is, well, huge.  Actually, this is monumental. 

“The right to record police officers while performing duties in a public place as well as the right to be protected from the warrantless seizure and destruction of those recordings, are not only required by the Constitution,” Justice Department attorneys wrote in a “statement of interest” filed Jan. 10 in the case. “They are consistent with our fundamental notions of liberty, promote the accountability of our governmental officers, and instill public confidence in the police officers who serve us daily.”
For many, the idea that the government would ever take a position that furthers “our fundamental notions of liberty,” seems almost impossible to imagine. Sure, we had hopes that an Obama administration might see a change in attitude by the DOJ, but nothing that’s happened since suggested there was any chance that the new DOJ would be any different than the old.  If anything, the DOJ under Holder has been worse than before, if for no other reason than its support of a prior administration’s worst conduct.

Like it or not, the involvement of the DOJ is likely to be enormously persuasive to Judge Everett in holding that a constitutional right exists.  Indeed, as much as we can discount the government’s position when it’s the same old “tough on crime,” let the cops do whatever they please, that they’ve broken away from the norm makes it particularly significant.  When is the last time the DOJ stood up in favor of constitutional rights and against anything that give the police unfettered power.

Many believe that the downward spiral, the loss of freedom under the guise of safety, is unstoppable.  While this may not signify a shift in the government’s general view, it certainly gives hope that the government isn’t totally insensitive to liberty. Who knows, maybe they will start giving Brady to defendants on their own?  A guy can dream.

Way to go, Eric. 

H/T Radley Balko

8 thoughts on “The DOJ is Alive

  1. John Burgess

    Good for the DOJ! I hope it takes a look at Illinois and the other states with oppressive ‘eavesdropping’ laws.

    What strikes me as curious here, though, is that phones are allowed at a racetrack. Used to be that they weren’t because of fear of gambling misdeeds.

  2. SHG

    You clearly know more about racetracks than me, so I defer. I once saw Pimlico years ago in the early morning through a stupor when me and some law school pals made a wrong turn in Brooklyn. Don’t ask. There were no cellphones then.

  3. Frank

    A lot of legal betting now occurs via smartphone/internet and phone-a-bet accounts. This saves having to pay for tellers. Kind of silly to ban them these days.

    (Full Disclosure: She Who Must Be Obeyed trains at Charles Town Races)

  4. Frank

    Eric is still on the hook for selling guns to Mexican drug cartels and blaming the US gun dealers for following his orders, so we’ll see.

  5. Dante

    I cannot help but think this is mere posturing before the election. I mean, consider the source.

    Then again, if they don’t pull it back after the election, this is huge.

  6. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, hope ‘you & yours’ new year is off to a good start.

    With this unprecedented urging and siding, do you see it effecting the citizens currently in prison and jail for recording public servants performing their duties in public? And, do you believe it’ll help those that were harmed and/or hospitalized by the authoriti in the process of being took down?

    Asking because it seems like this will be a boom for the personal injury specialist & a great time for unemployed guppies to get out of the basement and represent. Thanks for your time.

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