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