Many American minorities were 100% in favor of Puerto Rican native Sonia Sotomayor getting a seat in the Supreme Court a few years back.
Since being appointed a Supreme Court Justice, Sotomayor has not let her conservative counterparts steer her away from speaking out against the injustices that are too often placed upon people of color in America.
Following a recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of unlawful searches by police, Sotomayor has written an open letter where she calls out the blatant injustices imposed by the justice system on innocent persons, particularly of color.
In a powerful dissent to a Supreme Court ruling that took an expansive view of the limits the Constitution places on police misconduct, Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday seemed to address the people most affected by unfortunate encounters with the police — black and brown Americans.
“Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong,” Sotomayor wrote in the opening paragraph of her response to Utah v. Strieff, which the court decided in a 5-3 vote.
The case had asked the justices to decide whether evidence uncovered during an unlawful police stop could be used against the person in possession of it — a question that requires an interpretation of the Fourth Amendment‘s prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.
It turns out that Edward Strieff, the Utah man at the center of the case, had been stopped by police officers who had a hunch that he was engaged in drug activity but didn’t have any real “reasonable suspicion” that he actually was, which is required by the Constitution for investigatory stops.
Or, as Sotomayor put it: “In his search for lawbreaking, the officer in this case himself broke the law.”
But then the officer got lucky: When he ran Strieff’s driver’s license through his system, he noticed his suspect had a minor traffic warrant for an unpaid ticket. That meant the officer could check Strieff for contraband, which he did. Then he got really lucky: He found methamphetamines in Strieff’s pocket, which provided a basis for an arrest and later charge of drug possession.
In its ruling Monday, the Supreme Court determined that the drugs — the “poisonous fruit“ of the officer’s illegal stop — could be used against Strieff at his trial, even though the officer had initially violated Strieff’s rights. The court called the officer’s conduct “at most negligent” and the result of “good-faith mistakes.”
Sotomayor wasn’t having any of this. And in an opinion joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she questioned the premises of the majority — that “lawless police conduct” here was somehow uncommon or somehow not “systemic.”
“Respectfully, nothing about this case is isolated,” she wrote. (Justice Elena Kagan wrote a separate dissent noting that the majority’s approach “creates unfortunate incentives for the police.”)
Displaying a keen understanding of the ongoing national conversation surrounding police brutality and abuse, she cited a broad range of examples of misconduct: the damning Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson, Missouri; studies on the prevalence of outstanding warrants and debt by criminal defendants; and the pattern of unconstitutiona