Argument analysis: judges have reservations about gaze decision-making, originality, text and the Fourth Amendment “seizure”-SCOTUSblog


In oral arguments Torres v Madrid On Wednesday, the justices tried all the tools of constitutional interpretation because they passed the key Fourth Amendment meaning of “seizure.” In this case, their way of governing will answer the last remaining question: When the police shoots an escaped suspect but is wounded by a bullet but does not stop, is there a Fourth Amendment “detention”?

Kelsi Brown Corkran (Kelsi Brown Corkran), representing Roxanne Torres (Roxanne Torres), Mark Standridge (Mark Standridge), representing officials (Art Lien)

Kelsi Corkran defended Roxanne Torres, a New Mexico woman who was shot twice by state police before driving away from the scene. She was supported by Rebecca Taibleson, who represented the United States as a “friend of the court.” Mark Standridge defended the police Janice Madrid and Richard Williamson. Torres claimed in a civil rights lawsuit that an officer was unreasonably detained while shooting, thereby infringing her Fourth Amendment rights. The officer’s defense was that the shooting did not constitute seizure at all.

Follow precedent

As i am in mine Case previewThe simplest solution to this case is that the court only follows its precedent.Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan supported this approach in the 1991 ruling, noting that California v. Hodary D., The court carefully designed the definition of “seizure”, which can clearly capture the shooting in this situation: “Even if it fails in the end, you can stop the action by raising your hand or using force.” However, Clarence Thomas ( Judges Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch both emphasized in the questioning that this terminology is necessary or not essential to the outcome of the case, and therefore is not binding on future decisions. .

To illustrate the centrality of this issue, Kagan read the following article Hordari D. And pointed out that the language appeared “pervasive views”, appeared six times [in] There are only seven pages of opinions. For Kagan, this is not the kind of “stray statement” that is easily overlooked. To reinforce this, Taibleson expressed strong concern in this situation, saying: “The interest of the United States here is to establish a clear And predictable rules, so that law enforcement agencies can apply in the current hot spots.Think in Hordari D. Achieve these goals. Taibleson admitted that the United States took the opposite stance in 1991, but she explained: “We… simply don’t feel it, let it go backwards.” “

Regardless of whether he appreciates Taibleson’s excellent basketball reference materials, Judge Stephen Breyer also seems to need a clear line. He said: “We need a line a little larger than that line. [the officers] put forward. “For Breyer, the court has drawn the line Hordari D. Is “as good as any line.”


Since conservative judicial personnel are very interested in the narrow definition of “detention” for officers, the existence of opposite precedents is only part of the problem.Another fact is Hordari D. It is a precedent for primitivism written by Justice Antonin Scalia. In court, Scalia held that, according to the common law at the time of framing, “the seizure or application of force by lawful authorization alone, regardless of whether it successfully subdued the arrested person, is sufficient to constitute a seizure. This prompted Justice Brett Kavanaugh to urge Standridge to admit, “As far as I know, you are arguing about Justice Scalia and all nine justices in the case. The original intention of the “Fourth Amendment” is wrong.” Kavanov also pushed Tabrizon on this issue, and Tabrizon finally affirmed that the official position of the United States was that Scalia had obtained the right history. Sotomayor became angry and pointed out bitterly that Scalia “is very supportive of common law, and…under normal circumstances, he understands the situation very well.”

Faced with so many primitivism forces, Standridge argued that the court should “reject historical relics that are not suitable for the modern era” and should follow “the rules evolved from the modern norms and interpretations of the Fourth Amendment.” . Contemporary conditions.” Strangely, the conservatives in the court seemed to accept this statement the most. He said that Gorsoch questioned the applicability of the frame-era case, and the case he said mainly involved “Dickensian debt collection methods.” Thomas believes that these cases may be distinguishable because they arise outside the criminal context and involve the direct use of force. Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that none of the cases involved shootings. Given that the proceedings were unfolding on the (virtual) street at the same time, it seemed somewhat ironic.Meanwhile, Judge Amy Corny Barrett Praise The court’s most prominent originalists clearly demonstrated primitivism in the confirmation hearings in the Senate, seeming to imply that the precedents of the Fleming era had little insight into the correct application of the Constitution in the modern context.


After neglecting the simple meaning of the term “seizure”, the judges returned to more familiar areas.The strongest textual argument of an officer is that the ordinary meaning of the term does not apply to unsuccessful Try to restrain someone. To illustrate this point, Gorsuch used the most extreme hypothesis of the day to confuse an “explosive” driver.[s] Passing the “100 mph” roadblock, the police “bazooka” (!) shot everywhere, but only scratched. Alito took the line and asked “baseball pitcher [who] Deliberately throw beans at the batter. “Thomas added a question about someone being hit by a “snowball.” The judge suggested that none of these situations fit the term “seizure.” These examples prompted Kavanaugh to challenge Corkran to explain “why we shouldn’t Just follow the common usage of the term “seizure”. When it became apparent that the judge opposed her, Corkran replied: “This was the ordinary meaning at the time. Foundation established. “

The judge’s hypothesis can be said to be an important fact about Torres’ claim. Torres was not only shot but also felt the effects-including (she claims) temporary paralysis. Bullets cause injuries in the blink of an eye, and may cause justices to ignore their serious effects-traditional physical contact can easily cause injuries. This came to the surface when Sandridge responded to Justice Alito’s question about a “robbing” officer. [a] A man’s shirt… a few seconds”, admitting that it was a (short-term) seizure. Sotomayor exchanged Torres’ claims and asked how Standridge grabbed the shirt for a few seconds. Throwing bullets at others is more like a seizure. “


The undercurrent in the trial involves the social significance of the case. At a time when the country is increasingly concerned about police violence, a broad understanding of the term “detention” will allow for stricter judicial review of excessive police force. In the early stages of the argument, Sotomayor asked Kirkland to “explain why this case is so important.” Kirkland had to point out that the military officer’s narrow definition of seizures would put “all kinds of government abuses” in the constitutional framework. Outside.Breyer emphasized this point, noting that the officer’s argument gave “the people the right to be protected in their person” without “giving too much protection-the whole field [with] There is no protection at all. “

Gorsuch and Alito offered opposing opinions, asking whether the two parties could treat the lawsuit as a civil claim for battery assault in a New Mexico court. The consensus seems to be possible, but it is to limit the time limit. Standridge used his local practice in New Mexico to doubt the potential of state legal remedies for excessive police force:

I believe that, as an officer of this court and the New Mexico court, I can represent…a accusation of assault or assault brought by a certain plaintiff (such as this petitioner).[] It is still valid in summary judgment and may have to be resolved in trial.

in conclusion

After debate, the case feels closer than expected. With the in-depth study of the justices, things will always change, but at this moment, I counted three votes in favor of Torres and three votes in favor of the officers. The result depends on the remaining two judges-Cavano and Chief Justice John. Roberts-They didn’t pay a tip. Their hands.

Published on Torres v Madrid, Featured, Excellent case

Recommended citation:
Jeffrey Bellin (Jeffrey Bellin),
Argument analysis: Judges have reservations about gaze, original intent, text and Fourth Amendment “detention”,
SCOTUS blog (October 16, 2020, 3:08 pm), counts seized as the fourth revision/

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