Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’

DoJ won’t charge Darren Wilson, excoriates Ferguson in report

Confirming expectations, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it will not file federal civil rights charges against the police officer who shot Michael Brown following an altercation on the streets of Ferguson, Mo. [CBS] Contrary to a visual theme repeated before countless news cameras through weeks of protests, “no, Michael Brown’s hands probably were not up” at the time of the shooting [Wesley Lowery, Washington Post] In the end, “Hands Up — Don’t Shoot” 2014’s iconic protest gesture, was founded in the self-serving, oft-repeated eyewitness account of Brown chum/soon-established-robbery-accomplice Dorrian Johnson. And he was credible why?

At the same time, the report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice makes clear (AP, WaPo) that the Ferguson, Mo. police department was up to its hip in bad practices, ranging from the rights-violative (knowingly baseless arrests and stops, arresting persons for recording police actions) to the cynical (“revenue policing” aimed at squeezing money out of the populace over subjective/petty offenses that include “manner of walking.”)

Whether these bad local police practices are a suitable subject for federal oversight, and where the actually existing U.S. Department of Justice gets off complaining about high-handed and revenue-driven law enforcement given its own sorry track record, are other questions. But any view of Ferguson’s troubles in the back-view mirror should now acknowledge two things: 1) many people rushed to assume Officer Darren Wilson’s guilt who should have known better; 2) even so, there was much to protest in Ferguson law enforcement. (cross-posted, with a new concluding paragraph, at Cato at Liberty).

February 13 roundup

  • Government of Canada alleges bill-padding by “king of class action lawsuits” in Indian residential schools compensation case [CBC; earlier here, here, and here]
  • P.F. Chang’s sued over surcharge on gluten-free menu [Yahoo, John O’Brien/Legal NewsLine]
  • Town consolidation as a cure for fragmented North County woes? Not so fast [Jesse Walker] Would it help if the towns went broke? [Megan McArdle, related on “taxation by citation”] St. Louis Post-Dispatch has gathered its coverage of the Ferguson story at a single portal;
  • “It was (Scottish) land law’s greatest ever day on twitter” [@MalcolmCombe Storify]
  • Billion-dollar lawsuit over natural gas collapses after “lawyers discovered that a key piece of evidence had been fabricated.” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • “Double Platinum Rapper Shilling For Local Lawyer Now” [Above the Law; Mark Jones, Columbus, Ga.]
  • She stoops to instruct: “Read the briefs,” Linda Greenhouse tells SCOTUS regarding high-profile King v. Burwell ObamaCare case [James Taranto, WSJ “Best of the Web”]. More: Robert Levy.

“Taxation by citation”

Missouri lawmakers are discussing a bill that would discourage speed traps and excessive municipal reliance on fines by providing that revenue from traffic citations could not exceed 10 percent of a town’s revenues, down from 30 percent currently. [St. Louis Public Radio]

Former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch testified in favor of Senate Bill 5 Wednesday before the senate committee on local government.

“We are not supposed to be in the business, in law enforcement, of generating revenue for the cities,” Fitch said. “I think, personally, municipal courts should be able to recover their costs, but they shouldn’t be profit generators. It’s not a business; you’re not supposed to be able to buy chairs for the mayor’s office with traffic ticket fines.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale), cited the way traffic citations can snowball with late fees, doubling or tripling of fines, arrest after missed court dates, and loss of jobs. Many towns, on the other hand, don’t want to lose the revenue:

City officials, including a few mayors such as Cool Valley Mayor Viola Murphy, testified against the bill.

“You have money that comes in, but it goes right back out,” Murphy said. “It goes back out to different funds that are needed … I wouldn’t want to see (the) battered women’s fund cut; I wouldn’t want to see police training cut.”

Police and community roundup

  • Oh, no: “Ferguson to Increase Police Ticketing to Close City’s Budget Gap,” because three arrest warrants per household is still too low [Bloomberg News via Zach Weissmuller (& thanks for quote), earlier]
  • In years 2011/12 alone, one Buffalo officer “killed as many dogs in the line of duty as the entire NYPD.” [WGRZ]
  • “He believed the poor had the right to buy and sell.” Tunisia yes, Staten Island too? [David Boaz, USA Today]
  • “The language of protest: Race, rioting, and the memory of Ferguson” [Abigail Perkiss, NCC/Yahoo, mentions me]
  • “Red light cameras to go dark in New Jersey” [Josh Kaib, Watchdog Wire] “Public opinion swings hard against traffic cameras” [AutoBlog]
  • On interpreting statistics on race and policing, point counter-point [Scott Alexander, Ezra Klein, Alexander] Reminder: increasing ranks of black officers does not necessarily lead to fewer shootings of black civilians [Jamelle Bouie, Slate]
  • “Sex, Spice, and Small-Town Texas Justice: The Purple Zone Raid” [Reason.tv video]

Police and prosecution roundup

  • At least twelve Baltimore cops sought workers’ comp for stress after using deadly force on citizens [Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun/Carroll County Times]
  • “D.C. Council votes to overhaul asset forfeiture, give property owners new rights” [Washington Post]
  • A different view on Ferguson: Richard Epstein defends grand jury outcome [Hoover]
  • “The House GOP leadership is blocking a police militarization reform bill from even getting a vote.” [Zach Carter, HuffPo, via @radleybalko]
  • Will potential cost of citizen public records requests sink police body-camera schemes? [Seattle Times, ABA Journal]
  • Marissa Alexander case, cited by critics of mandatory minimum sentencing, ends in plea deal [Brian Doherty, earlier, CBS Sunday Morning on mandatory minimum sentencing]
  • Forensics guy hired by Michael Brown’s family: “If they want to think I’m a physician, then more power to them.” [Radley Balko]
  • St. Louis County fines/fees: “Municipal courts charge $100 for Christmas gift of fake amnesty” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial]

Ferguson decision, cont’d

PBS NewsHour “read and analyzed more than 500 pages of witness testimony and compared each statement to those given by [officer Darren] Wilson,” pulling together the results in this chart, which illuminates points where the witness testimony tended to help Wilson’s defense and where it did not; perhaps most surprising is how many questions he was apparently not asked. Prosecutor Robert McCullough managed the grand jury proceedings almost in the manner of a defense lawyer for the man facing charges, a strategy extremely unlikely to be repeated in the great majority of grand jury proceedings where the accused is not a police officer [Jacob Sullum] And Conor Friedersdorf notes that if you were looking for poster cases of wrongful use of lethal force for which police were not held accountable — even when there was video or other strong documentary evidence — many other cases would stand higher on the list than that of Michael Brown.

“America’s Most Fee-Ridden Cities”

I’m quoted in this Reason TV segment by Zach Weissmueller on the problem of municipalities that stake their finances on overzealous fee collection:

“When you have towns like those in St. Louis County that get in some cases, 40 percent of their municipal revenue in fines and fees, they have chosen a very expensive way of taxing their population, one that creates maximum hassle and maximum hostility,” says Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and publisher of the blog Overlawyered.

Aside from Ferguson, Mo., the piece uses as examples the notorious Los Angeles suburb of Bell, Calif., exposed in a scandal as being run for the benefit of its managers, and — a smart choice — Detroit, a city with a long-time adversarial stance toward its small businesses and others trying to do everyday business in the town:

…what really grants Detroit this honor is “Operation Compliance,” an initiative pushed by former mayor David Bing aimed at bringing all of Detroit’s small businesses up to code through costly permitting. The initiative launched with the stated goal of shutting down 20 businesses a week.

Police and community roundup

  • “As Ferguson waits, some lessons from the Rodney King riots” [Radley Balko] “ACLU wins federal court orders on right to video police in Ferguson, elsewhere” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
  • “What charges could the Michael Brown grand jury consider, if they choose to indict?” [Paul Cassell, Volokh; related on Missouri jury instructions regarding deadly force by police, Robert VerBruggen/Real Clear Policy]
  • Quick links: things this site has published on Ferguson, on police militarization, on police issues generally;
  • Interview with University of Illinois lawprof Andrew Leipold on grand jury process [U of I] A reminder about the surprisingly high error rates of eyewitness testimony [Balko]
  • “Judges propose wide reform of St. Louis County’s municipal courts” [StL; related, holiday warrant forgiveness] Municipal court fines and fees: “Why we need to fix St. Louis County” [Radley Balko, related (Better Together report), earlier here, here from Balko, etc.]
  • “The hurdles for indicting or convicting a uniformed officer are high, for many reasons.” Survey of police deadly force issue [L.A. Times] Police forces have strayed far from the “Peel Principles” for which London police were so admired [Tuccille, Reason]
  • Not much. “Whatever Happened To The White House Police Militarization Review?” [Evan McMorris-Santoro, BuzzFeed]

Police and prosecution roundup

  • New Cato paper finds little evidence that pot legalization in Colorado has much affected rates of use, traffic safety, violent crime, ER visits, health, education outcomes [Jeffrey Miron working paper via Jacob Sullum]
  • Ferguson narrative changes as new evidence supports officer’s story on Michael Brown confrontation [Washington Post, Marc Ambinder/The Week, New Republic]
  • Why Obama was smart to choose Loretta Lynch as AG rather than knocking Republicans’ cap off with a pick like Thomas Perez [Cato; Todd Gaziano on confirmation questions]
  • Plea bargaining system: “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty” [Judge Jed Rakoff, New York Review of Books]
  • “There’s not much to do about catcalling, unless you’re willing to see a lot more minority men hassled by the police” [Kay Hymowitz, Time] Peer pressure seems to be a factor in restraining it [Andrew Sullivan] The “practice of catcalling is most taboo among members of the upper classes.” [Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, earlier]
  • San Diego says it retains discretion over when to release cop camera footage [Radley Balko] How body cameras can vindicate cops [same]
  • Elderly Wisconsin man “was never considered dangerous, [but] was known to be argumentative,” so send in the armored vehicle [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar, related] “The [SWAT-raided] Tibetan monks were here on a peace mission, for Christ’s sake. Well, not for Christ’s sake, but you know what I mean.” [same] Sen. Coburn quotes Madison: standing military force with overgrown executive will not long be safe companion to liberty [WSJ]

Liability roundup

  • How legal doctrine changes in a state-based system: “The Diffusion of Innovations in Tort Law” [Kyle Graham]
  • Are courts growing (appropriately) disillusioned with cy pres? [James Beck and Rachel Weil, WLF; Beck, D&DL, on Redman v. RadioShack]
  • “Asbestos lawyers want $2.5 million for losing fight to keep Garlock records sealed” [@DanielDFisher on Legal NewsLine report] “Third Circuit rules against plaintiff who ‘just knew’ asbestos was used in Navy vessels” [Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, LNL]
  • Eric Alexander on the runaway $9 billion Actos verdict [Drug and Device Law, citing Dr. David Kessler, former FDA chief, as “plaintiff’s mouthpiece”; earlier on Actos/Takeda case]
  • “Third-Party Bad Faith Claims Add $800M to Florida Auto Insurance Costs: IRC” [Insurance Journal]
  • Discussion of proposals to change contributory negligence for bicyclists in D.C., mucho comments [Greater Greater Washington]
  • “Missouri Supreme Court Invalidates State’s Legislative Cap on Punitive Damages” [Mark Behrens]