Ninth Circuit Court Rules It's OK For Cops To Steal From You. That's It. It's Okay For Cops To Steal From You.

Cops Behaving Badly

Back in 2013, two cops in Fresno, California, stole more than $225,000 from Micah Jessop and Brittan Ashjian in broad daylight, right in front of their eyes. Now, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals claims no actual crime was committed. The court dismissed the men's civil rights suit last week, declaring that the officers still enjoy "qualified immunity" and can't be sued in federal court.

Judge Milan Smith, a gift from George W. Bush, wrote the unanimous decision, and it's a doozy. He argues that even if the police officers robbed Jessop and Ashjian blind, the businessmen "did not have a clearly established Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from the theft of property seized pursuant to a warrant." It's apparently "not obvious" that cops stealing from citizens violates their constitutional rights.

The police were investigating possible illegal gambling and did in fact have a warrant to search three properties that Jessop and Ashjian owned. They were given a receipt of sorts stating that the officers seized $50,000. However, the businessmen claim the cops actually took $151,380 in cash as well as $125,000 in rare coins. Sure, there's $50,000 in there but several times over.

Jessop and Ashjian were never charged with a crime. Worse, they never got their shit back. The men filed a lawsuit claiming the Fresno police violated their Fourth Amendment right against "unreasonable search and seizure," as well as their right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

"Unquestionably," they argued in court documents, "the theft of over $100,000 and collectible coins/currency exceeded the legitimate scope of the search warrant."

Although the police deny the theft, their defense was based on the notion of "qualified immunity." The Supreme Court has ruled that qualified immunity encourages "the vigorous exercise of official authority" and protects officials "from undue interference with their duties and from potentially disabling threats of liability." In practice, it helps cops get away with murder (sometimes literally).

The bar is unreasonably high for citizens to get over qualified immunity. You need "existing precedent" that your constitutional rights were "clearly established" at the time of the alleged misconduct by law enforcement. You might as well not leave the house, because "existing precedent" was last seen somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle.

The Ninth Court ruled with a collective legal shrug that "we need not—and do not—decide whether the City Officers violated the Constitution." By ducking the question of whether cops literally stealing from you violates your constitutional rights, the court ensures there is no "clearly established law" guiding judges the next time this happens, and we're fairly sure it will. Qualified immunity in its current form leads to what's called "constitutional stagnation" or in layman's terms a legal circle jerk.

If it's any consolation, the Ninth Court did pull a Susan Collins and admit that "any theft by police officers—most certainly the theft of over $225,000—is undoubtedly deeply disturbing." The officers really should've "recognized that the alleged theft of Appellants' money and rare coins would be improper." However, the court ludicrously insists that Fresno police "did not have clear notice that [alleged stealing] violated the Fourth Amendment" and "could not have known that their actions violated the Fourteenth Amendment's substantive due process clause." WTF? Don't they cover "stealing is bad" during day one of police academy? Or does the training just involve watching the Police Academy film series?

A coalition of organizations as diverse as the ACLU and the Second Amendment Foundation recently signed a "cross-ideological" amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to take another -- maybe even sober -- look at qualified immunity.

That case law, the brief argued, "denies justice to victims of egregious constitutional violations, and fails to provide accountability for official wrongdoing," which in turn has "diminished the public's trust in government institutions."

One of the leading critics of qualified immunity is Don Willett, a judge on the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals who also made Donald Trump's shortlist of potential nominees to the Supreme Court. Willett has warned of the "kudzu-like creep of the modern immunity regime."

WILLETT: To some observers, qualified immunity smacks of unqualified impunity, letting public officials duck consequences for bad behavior—no matter how palpably unreasonable—as long as they were the first to behave badly.

The current "yes harm, no foul" imbalance leaves victims violated but not vindicated; wrongs are not righted, wrongdoers are not reproached, and those wronged are not redressed. It is indeed curious how qualified immunity excuses constitutional violations by limiting the statute Congress passed to redress constitutional violations.

We couldn't agree more. It's no surprise, we guess, that Trump wound up going with someone else for the Supreme Court. His entire presidency operates under the "qualified immunity" principle.


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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Seattle. However, he's more reliable for food and drink recommendations in Portland, where he spends a lot of time for theatre work. His co-adaptation of "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins is playing NOW at Pioneer Square's Cafe Nordo. All Wonketters welcome.

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Once upon a time... about ten years ago, a group of entirely ridiculous men burst onto the scene wearing stupid hats and telling men that wearing stupid hats and telling men that walking up to women in bars and insulting ("negging") them would get them laid. This did not last long, as women also had televisions and computers and were completely aware of these tricks as well, so when some ass came up to us in a bar and said "Hey, nice nails, are they real?" we would laugh and laugh and loudly announce "Oh my god, this guy just tried to neg me! Can you believe that shit? HEY EVERYONE, THIS GUY JUST TRIED TO NEG ME!" and then refer to him as "Mystery" the whole night.

Most of the men who tried that shit only did so a few times before realizing that it wasn't going to work, and thus moved on to other things. Perhaps things that did not involve furry hats and coming off as a huge creep. We may never know, because I would assume that those who tried it are now extremely embarrassed and would never, ever admit to this to us.

Still, there were a few men willing to eat that shit up, as well as some grifters willing to take advantage of that. Said grifters tended to be extremely misogynistic and seemed more like they were teaching men how to be as despised by women as they were than teaching them how to actually be liked by women.

Some of them, like Roosh V, a creepy weirdo who actually does live in his mom's basement, actively encouraged men to rape women who were intoxicated to the point of being obviously unable to consent.

However, even that branch of the PUA tree is wilting away. Many "self-help" style PUA forums like Nextasf and RSDnation are shutting down or have already shut down. In March, Chateau Heartiste, a batshit crazy PUA turned White Nationalist/Alt-Right blog was shut down by Wordpress. This week, rape advocate Roosh V (whom you may recall once called yours truly a "Wonkette typist/clown face, would not bang") announced that he was renouncing his PUA ways and devoting himself to Jesus. He explained to the forum he manages that he would no longer be allowing anyone to discuss premarital "fornication."

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'Baby Geniuses' star Jon Voight took to Twitter early this morning to proclaim his undying love for Donald Trump, probably because there is no one left in his life who will listen to him talk about this, or anything else, in person. In this video rant, Voight encouraged members of the Republican Party, whom he apparently thinks are the only real citizens of the United States, to stand by Donald Trump and "acknowledge the truth" that he is the best President since Abraham Lincoln.

Part ONE:

People of the Republican Party, I know you will agree with me when I say our president has our utmost respect and our love. This job is not easy. For he's battling the left and their absurd words of destruction. I've said this once and I'll say this again. That our nation has been built on the solid ground from our forefathers, and there is a moral code of duty that has been passed on from President Lincoln. I'm here today to acknowledge the truth, and I'm here today to tell you my fellow Americans that our country…

Oh no, not our absurd words of destruction!

Part DEUX:

is stronger, safer, and with more jobs because our President has made his every move correct. Don't be fooled by the political left, because we are the people of this nation that is witnessing triumph. So let us stand with our president. Let us stand up for this truth, that President Trump is the greatest president since President Lincoln.

Does Jon Voight not know there have been... other presidents? Can he name them? Because really, it does not sound like it. Does he also not know that a very big chunk of the Republican Party actually does not care very much for Abraham Lincoln? Namely those defenders of Confederate statues that Trump called "very fine people?" Also, did he intentionally diss their beloved Ronald Reagan?

Who can know? Who can even tell what he is trying to say or why he is trying to say it. He doesn't appear to have tweeted much since 2016, so I'm guessing whoever's job it was to keep him from tanking his career quit. Either that... or after filming the seventh season of Ray Donovan, he found out it's going to be canceled or his character is getting killed off or something and he is now free to be a jackass? I don't know, I haven't watched the show, although my parents are very into it and mad that I haven't watched it. Literally all I know about it is that it has something to do with Boston, because they keep mentioning that to me like it's a selling point.

It seems useless at this point to note that the people who scream their faces off about how bad it is for Hollywood celebs to support liberal causes, and how they should keep their politics to themselves, etc. etc. make a way bigger deal than normal people do whenever a Big Time Hollywood Celebrity like Jon Voight or, uh, Scott Baio, supports their cause. Mostly because they're the only ones who have elected a reality TV star and the star of Bedtime for Bonzo (who by the way, also once practically ruined a perfectly good Bette Davis movie with his bad acting. Which is not to say that Dark Victory is not fantastic and probably the best thing to watch if you want to sob your face off, but he was very bad in it.) to run the country.

But we might as well do that anyway, because it actually never stops being funny.

[Jon Voight Twitter]

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