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July 17, 2009

Friday Blawging; Three Four Cases

Out of the Ninth yesterday (PDF), a decision so obvious, I agree with Judge Reinhardt. Here's a taste:

On August 22, 2003, two San Carlos Police Officers broke into Bruce Hopkins’ home. They did not have a warrant, nor did they have probable cause. All that they had was a statement from a third-party that Hopkins had been involved in an extremely minor traffic incident, an incident so minor that it did not cause as much as a scratch on either of the vehicles involved, and that he appeared to have been drinking. Based on this information, the officers broke into Hopkins’ home with their flashlights shining and their guns drawn. When they found Hopkins, they handcuffed him, removed him from his house, and placed him under arrest.

The officers’ explanation for their warrantless entry is both simple and audacious: They claim that, after hearing that Hopkins had the smell of alcohol on his breath, they feared he was on the brink of a diabetic coma and broke into his house in order to offer medical assistance. According to one officer’s deposition testimony, they entered with their guns drawn because individuals suffering from diabetic emergencies “may sometimes be confused” and can be “combative.” Apparently, in the officer’s view, someone suffering from such a medical emergency may need to be deterred by deadly force. Hopkins, however, was neither confused nor combative because he was not suffering from a diabetic emergency — he was lying in his bedroom watching television, which is where the officers found him. Yet, after the officers discovered that he was perfectly healthy and non-comatose, they did not say “we’re glad to see that you are safe, sir; we’ll be on our way now.” They did not say, “Sorry for the disturbance and for damaging your property.” No, instead they handcuffed Hopkins at gunpoint, removed him from his home, placed him under arrest, and brought him to the San Mateo County jail for the final chapter in the case of the nonexistent diabetes.

Hopkins' civil rights suit can proceed.

And from the lower courts, things that you don't hear about too often, but matter a great deal.

Some New Jersey Appellate Division judges are unwilling to overturn a Family Court judge's conclusion that a woman's refusal to consent to a cesarean section can, as a matter of law, be considered an element of abuse and neglect to the child. The facts in that one were also egregious (PDF); New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) learned of the case because of the mother's refusal to consent to a c-section. Check out the concurring opinion for a good legal discussion why a mother's right to refuse medical treatment should not subject her to investigation for child abuse.

Finally, you remember the story of the community college student whose speech professor called him a “fascist bastard,” cut his speech short, and refused to give him a grade when he tried to give a speech about his opposition to gay marriage? A U.S. district court approved his request for a preliminary injunction (PDF) of the college's "Sexual Harassment Policy", which by its text prohibited his speech.


Reinhardt/police conduct -- Good decision.
NJApp Div/c-section -- Bad decision.
USDist Ct/speech rights -- Good decision.


Oh, yeah, one more I meant to post earlier in the week, especially for Steve in HB: an Ohio court has concluded (PDF)that putting a prize limit (dollar amount) on games of skill is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Not really sure what to think about that.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 01:30 PM

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