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June 08, 2017

Pointing out that local police have a critical role to play in a tense, unfolding drama over the removal of Confederate statues from the City’s parks, The Rutherford Institute is warning that heavy-handed tactics, militarized equipment, excess force and an authoritarian approach to law-and-order by police could very well set the match to an increasingly volatile situation. In a letter to Police Chief Al S. Thomas, constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead is asking the City of Charlottesville (Va.) Police Department to employ less confrontational tactics in engaging with the public, especially in light of several recent incidents in which local police employed a gross display of force in carrying out routine duties. The Rutherford Institute’s letter to the Charlottesville P.D. is available at www.rutherford.org.

May 31, 2017

Continuing a disturbing trend of siding with police in cases of excessive use of force, the United States Supreme Court has reversed lower court rulings that found police liable for recklessly firing 15 times into a backyard shack in which a homeless couple—Angel and Jennifer Mendez—was sheltering.

May 25, 2017

Ruling that the existence of the government’s mass internet surveillance program would violate the First and Fourth Amendments, a federal appeals court has given the green light to a lawsuit challenging the government’s domestic and international spying program.

May 19, 2017

The Rutherford Institute has denounced a North Carolina high school’s decision to confiscate and ban copies of the school’s yearbook after members of the public objected to a Donald Trump quote chosen by a student to accompany her senior photo.

May 11, 2017

The Rutherford Institute has joined with a broad spectrum of nearly 30 organizations to urge that federal law be strengthened to protect federal employees who speak out against government waste, fraud and misconduct and who are the foundation for assuring government accountability. In its letter to President Trump and Congress, the coalition pointed out that current law leaves such employees, known as whistleblowers, open to retaliation by supervisors and prevents them from going to court to protect their right to freedom of speech.

April 27, 2017

Warning against the coercive use of “knock and talks” by police as a means of sidestepping the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against warrantless, unreasonable searches, The Rutherford Institute has issued constitutional guidelines to alert the public to this aggressive, increasingly popular police tactic and what Americans can do to preserve their constitutional rights. In the wake of court rulings that allow police to make surprise, late-night “visits” to homes, purportedly for the purpose of “talking” with residents, the use of “knock and talks” by law enforcement agencies has exploded, with some police departments establishing squads dedicated to conducting “knock and talks.”

April 21, 2017

The Rutherford Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union have asked the Virginia Supreme Court to protect the First Amendment rights of judges to educate the public about apolitical matters relating to the administration of justice. In an amicus brief filed with the court, Rutherford Institute and ACLU attorneys argued that Judges Rudolph Bumgardner III and Humes J. Franklin, Jr., did not violate an ethics rule forbidding judges from engaging in certain “political activity” when they spoke publicly about the problems that would result if the Augusta County Courthouse was moved to Verona, Virginia.

April 20, 2017

Denouncing a plan by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to increase the flow of military equipment to police and have the Justice Department cease its oversight of police misconduct, The Rutherford Institute warned that if the federal government persists in its pursuit of policies that ignore systemic problems within local law enforcement agencies at the expense of the safety and constitutional rights of the American people, “we the people” will all suffer. In a letter to the Attorney General, constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead urged Sessions to align the Justice Department’s priorities with that of the Constitution and, in doing so, not only protect the civil rights of citizens against abuse of power by state and local law enforcement but also “help police departments get better” by holding them fully accountable to the rule of law.

March 31, 2017

Finding that the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) could not be trusted to permanently change “dehumanizing” conditions at its “Death Row” prison, a federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit by prisoners who claim their confinement in oppressive isolation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. In asking the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, working in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that tactical policy changes adopted by VDOC in order to sidestep court-mandated legal obligations (the practice of “tactical mooting”) would leave prisoners at greater risk of having harsh conditions re-imposed upon them.

March 23, 2017

According to a federal appeals court, police will not be held accountable for banging on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failing to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shooting and killing the innocent homeowner who answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense. 

March 16, 2017

Declaring that motorists who recline their car seats are guilty of suspicious behavior, the Kansas Supreme Court has given police the green light to carry out warrantless searches of cars in which the seats are in a reclined position and plastic baggies are visible.

March 10, 2017

In refusing to hear a challenge to Texas’ asset forfeiture law, the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing Texas police to keep $201,000 in cash primarily on the basis that the seized cash—the proceeds of a home sale—was being transported on a highway associated with illegal drug trade, despite any proof of illegal activity by the owner. Asset forfeiture laws, which have come under intense scrutiny and criticism in recent years, allow the police to seize property “suspected” of being connected to criminal activity without having to prove the owner of the property is guilty of a criminal offense.

February 23, 2017

The Rutherford Institute has issued constitutional guidelines for individuals alarmed by the government’s use of the ACS to extract private information about their home life and personal habits.

February 14, 2017

The Rutherford Institute is pushing back against an effort by police to dismiss a Fourth Amendment lawsuit challenging a warrantless raid, search, use of force against and arrest of a Texas homeowner based on unreliable information from an anonymous source.

January 27, 2017

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in defense of two street preachers who were arrested for allegedly refusing police orders to cease proselytizing at a Princeton, N.J., train station without a non-commercial speech permit.

January 25, 2017

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments today challenging “dehumanizing” conditions in Virginia prisons. In asking the federal appeals court to reinstate a lawsuit on behalf of Virginia death-row inmates who were held in “dehumanizing” conditions of isolation, The Rutherford Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union joined forces in support of the prisoners, arguing that tactical policy changes adopted by the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) in order to sidestep court-mandated legal obligations (the practice of “tactical mooting”) leave prisoners at greater risk of having harsh conditions re-imposed upon them.

January 18, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Lee v. Tam, which challenges the government’s practice of rejecting trademark applications for names that might be offensive to certain persons or groups.

January 12, 2017

In an effort to de-escalate tensions between American citizens and police and ensure that all parties emerge from such encounters with their lives, liberties and property intact, The Rutherford Institute has issued constitutional guidelines to better educate the public about their rights when stopped by the police, how to behave during a police encounter, what to expect during a traffic stop, and what to do if you believe your rights have been violated by a law enforcement official.