Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights

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Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights

 

UC Berkeley law school dean Chemerinsky (We the People) delivers a sharp and timely critique of the Supreme Court for “favor[ing] the interests of law enforcement over the rights of individuals.” By undermining constitutional protections against self-incrimination and unreasonable government searches and seizures, Chemerinsky argues, the court has helped create a racist criminal justice system that fails to hold police accountable for their misconduct. He delves into the 1968 Terry v. Ohio decision that facilitated New York City’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy, as well as more technical rulings based on esoteric concepts such as “standing,” which has been applied by the court to limit the rights of victims of police misconduct to sue to prevent future misconduct. Other enlightening case studies include Harlow v. Fitzgerald (1982), which revised the legal standard for “qualified immunity,” making it more difficult, according to Chemerinsky, to hold police officers responsible for excessive use of force and other civil rights violations. His suggestions for reform include bans on “no-knock” warrants and other dangerous police practices, and a federal law mandating that police departments “record and report all uses of force.” Lucid explanations of constitutional law and Chemerinsky’s deep knowledge of the Supreme Court’s inner workings make this an essential contribution to the debate over police reform. (Aug.)

 

Erwin Chemerinsky is the dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. The author of The Conservative Assault on the Constitution and The Case Against the Supreme Court, among many other works, he lives in Berkeley.

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