October 16, 2008

Supreme Court Noir.

It's Chief Justice John Roberts, dissenting from a denial of certiorari:
"Narcotics Strike Force, North Philly, May 4, 2001. Officer Sean Devlin, Narcotics Strike Force, was working the morning shift. Undercover surveillance. The neighborhood? Tough as a three-dollar steak. Devlin knew. Five years on the beat, nine months with the Strike Force. He'd made fifteen, twenty drug busts in the neighborhood.

"Devlin spotted him: a lone man on the corner. Another approached. Quick exchange of words. Cash handed over; small objects handed back. Each man then quickly on his own way. Devlin knew the guy wasn't buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up the buyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack in the guy's pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office."

27 comments:

TMink said...

The writing is a little like Dashiell Hammett.

Cool.

Trey

john said...

So what was the charge, impersonating Mike Hammer? And why should something like this clutter up the SCOTUS docket?

knox said...

Love it when someone Important shows they have a cool sense of humor.

EnigmatiCore said...

Funny dissent.

Alarming that there are judges who think that is not probable cause.

Common sense has died.

MadisonMan said...

That's pretty good.

Common sense in the commonwealth is rare indeed.

The Drill SGT said...

Roberts was better in this one:

"Sometimes a car being driven by an unlicensed driver, with no registration and stolen tags, really does belong to the driver’s friend, and sometimes dogs do eat homework, but in neither case is it reasonable to insist on checking out the story before taking other appropriate action."

AlphaLiberal said...

Well, yeah, it is funny and good to see people lighten up.

But this is patently false and an alarming rejection of evidence-based knowledge:

"Devlin knew the guy wasn't buying bus tokens."

Actually, Devlin didn't "know" that. He had good reason to think that was so, but could have been wrong.

There are things we think we know and things we know we know. Good to keep them separate.

Darcy said...

*crushing on Justice Roberts*

reader_iam said...

Wow. It's a damned shame Roberts didn't write a book of fiction on the way to the place he really wanted to go, and got.

pete-who said...

Actually, Devlin didn't "know" that. He had good reason to think that was so, but could have been wrong.

See TDS' comment above. "Probable cause" isn't "beyond a reasonable doubt".

I wonder if this is a creative attempt by the Chief Justice to highlight what he considers a bad trend in the lower courts.

Joe M. said...

One more reason to like Roberts.

"Actually, Devlin didn't 'know' that. He had good reason to think that was so, but could have been wrong."

Sure, he didn't have positive knowledge. I don't think Roberts would argue such in any case; it's a stylistic use of "know."

But even with the officer not having positive knowledge, surely he had enough to act upon? (In an appropriately cautious manner, &c., &c.; though I don't think that anything outrageous happened in this case)

I'm going with enigmaticore: "Alarming that there are judges who think that [that] is not probable cause."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

How funny. It's great to see that even a Supreme Court Justice can have fun at work.

junyo said...

See TDS' comment above. "Probable cause" isn't "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Actually, now it is. Otherwise how do you explain 'most of the intelligence aparatus of the Western world plus the Clinton administration believing Saddam was reconstituting his WMD program' = 'Bush lied/War for Oil'. Come January this will be the new paradigm American foreign policy is built around, PA is just ahead of the curve.

Of course, the bigger issue is why a police officer in a free society would care about the peaceful exchange of goods and/or money between individuals where there was no evidence of harm to either party, nor anyone else.

EDH said...

I'm detecting an attempt at a Joe Friday (Jack Webb) staccato cadence.

Yet, Friday typically would only use his narrative to set the scene.

I can't remember him actually reciting "the facts, maam" in narration.

But put him in a room with a "perp," and he'll tell it like it is! A link to one of his best below:

A Quirk in the Law

Roberts Graves said...

This sort of thing annoys more than it impresses.

Revenant said...

Actually, Devlin didn't "know" that. He had good reason to think that was so, but could have been wrong.

That's why they call it "probable cause", not "absolute certainty". Having good reason to think a crime just took place is what probable cause is all about.

Stephen said...

When Roberts is done with his current gig, he can graduate to blogging. Short sentences. Monosyllables. Action verbs. Sweet.

former law student said...

This is the city,
Los Angeles, California.
I work here,
I carry a badge.
My partner's Frank Smith.
My name's Friday.

TMink said...

Alphalib wrote: "There are things we think we know and things we know we know. Good to keep them separate."

True words. I always warn patients when they subpoena me that I will make a distinction between what I know and what I think. It can hurt their feelings when I say that it is possible that they are coaching their child or some other thing that the attorney asks me.

But it is important to know what we know and know what we think we know and know the difference. Know what I mean?

Trey

Paul Snively said...

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know." -- Donald Rumsfeld

jdeeripper said...

Where's Ruth Bader Ginsberg?

Sorry..haha.

Richard Fagin said...

According to U.S. District Judge Baer in New York, a few folks loading bags into a car trunk in the middle of the night, with one or two appearing to stand watch, and who take off with tires screeching upon sight of the police isn't probable cause, either. Judge Baer seemed to think that the sight of the police in New York was sufficient reason alone for an ordinary person to flee.

The Pa. Supreme Court has nothing on Judge Baer.

Chip Ahoy said...

But I was momentarily distracted by the scent of a dame. A dame that worked at Avon. A dame that worked at Avon and accidentally fell into a vat of Avon wisteria perfume. I looked over and she saw me. She was stacked like a pile of library books on the return-to-shelf cart. Packed like ten pounds of sausage shoved into a five pound casing, like a B-52 wrapped in a hangar built for a Cessna, and she had gams like a giraffe with a thyroid disorder resulting in extraordinary height being pulled in opposite directions by two alligators She saw me with eyes so dark they were like two pools, two cesspools that looked right through me, and that distracted me from a transaction I knew to be crooked, as fallen down drunk crawling across a mudslide on a surfboard.

EnigmatiCore said...

Alpha Liberal:

"He had good reason to think that was so"

One might even call it "probable cause".

Cedarford said...

john said...
So what was the charge, impersonating Mike Hammer? And why should something like this clutter up the SCOTUS docket?


Because drug gangs and gand-related violence is a cancer on our society, for starters?
Because inner city young black male thugs, fueled by the drug trade - commit half of the murders, criminal shooting incidents in this country, and over half the armed robberies?

More Americans have been killed on the streets of Chicago this year than in Iraq.

Alpha liberal - But this is patently false and an alarming rejection of evidence-based knowledge:

"Devlin knew the guy wasn't buying bus tokens."

Actually, Devlin didn't "know" that. He had good reason to think that was so, but could have been wrong.


Doyle is unfamiliar with probable cause.
Experienced cops, as well as anyone living in a drug infested neighborhood, can spot a drug transaction when it happens and be right 90% of the time.

A trained experienced cop, or the 60 year old black guy running the local barber shop will tell you that from pick-pocketing to "swipe pass" exchanges to 3-shell con games that the hand moves quicker than the eye. Cops watching a pickpocket do not see the wallet do from victim to thief - they see the behavior and the rest of the body displayed in the swipe that cannot move faster than the eye.

That is adequate basis to investigate. And with drug crime and gangs in particular -considering the danger the illegal drug trade causes to American citizens, the domestic tranquility...the asshole lawyers dressed in robes in Philly need to balance the rights of the law-abiding and the rights of the crooks better.

This is Philly, the same city that John Street called in the grip of a murder and drug epidemic and was calling for responsible black men to take to the streets and help shut down the thugs and dealers. Philly, where murder crime solving rates have gone down from over 50% to 10% and under in inner city neighborhoods.
Lawyers dressed in robes need to balance the inconvenience of the 10% who are frisked and have no illegal lethal weapons on them , against the rights of citizens to reasonable public safety measures to ensure domestic tranquility. To ensure rights of citizens to life and liberty are not infringed.

This is one area where Republicans tend to be much better - appointing judges like Roberts that have common sense in balancing rights. Far better than Democrat criminal rights absolutists like the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, or NYC ACLU examples like Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

blake said...

This is The Constitution. It's my beat.

From Inwood said...

The Naked City 1948, Jules Dasin, D.

TV Version: “There are eight million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them.”

Williamsburg Bridge, Palladian, but you knew that.

Blake: Very Good