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On The Front Lines

Three Victories: Supreme Court Affirms Protections for Farmers, Travelers and Arrestees Against Government Theft, Invasion of Privacy, and Excessive Force

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down three consecutive rulings affirming the right of Americans to be free from government overreach. The Rutherford Institute advanced arguments in all three cases, which respectively deal with the use of tasers and excessive force by prison officials (Kingsley v. Hendrickson); the practice of police gaining unfettered access to motel and hotel guest registries (City of Los Angeles v. Patel); and the government’s confiscation of agricultural crops without any guarantee or promise of payment (Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture).

“In a police state, there is no need for judges, juries or courts of law, because the police act as judge, jury and law, and their version of justice is one-sided, delivered at the end of a gun, taser or riot stick,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “While these rulings may not fix all that is wrong with our present police state, they go a long way towards reminding government officials that they are not above the law, whether you’re talking about agricultural boards and raising farmers, prison officials and excessive force, or hotel registries and the right to privacy.”

In a 5-4 ruling in Kingsley v. Hendrickson, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a lower court used an improper test to determine whether guards used excessive force against a pretrial detainee. Pointing out that individuals awaiting trial (pretrial detainees) are particularly vulnerable to government abuse and should not be forced to prove that their alleged abusers intended to harm them in order to claim their rights were violated, Rutherford Institute attorneys had asked the Supreme Court to remove restrictions some courts have imposed on civil rights lawsuits for excessive force by inmates against jail personnel, thereby discouraging the use of excessive force by prison officials. The case involves a Wisconsin man who alleges that he was subjected to unreasonable and excessive force in reckless disregard for his safety when prison guards forcibly removed him from his jail cell and subdued him with a stun gun. Affiliate attorney Stephen J. Neuberger of The Neuberger Firm assisted The Rutherford Institute in advancing the arguments in Kingsley.

In a 5-4 ruling in Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Supreme Court declared that raisin farmer Marvin Horne deserves to be compensated for the official seizure of one-third of his personal property by the government. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute had argued that the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on government confiscation of property applies not only to the appropriation of land but with full and equal force to personal property such as agricultural crops. The case arose after independent raisin farmers in California were fined almost $700,000 for refusing to surrender about 40% of the raisins they produced to the government as part of a program purportedly aimed at maintaining a stable market for commodities. Affiliate attorney Christopher F. Moriarty of Motely Rice LLC assisted The Rutherford Institute in presenting arguments in Horne.

In a 5-4 ruling in City of Los Angeles v. Patel, the Supreme Court struck down a Los Angeles ordinance that permits the police to check guest registries at motels and hotels at any hour of the day or night without a warrant or other judicial review. Citing a fundamental right to privacy, travel and association, The Rutherford Institute had argued that the ordinance, which is similar to laws on the books in cities across the nation, flies in the face of historical protections affording hotel guests privacy in regards to their identities and comings-and-goings and burdens the fundamental rights of travel and association. Affiliate attorneys Anand Agneshwar and Grace K. Chang of Arnold & Porter, LLP, assisted The Rutherford Institute in advancing the arguments in Patel.

Case History

March 11, 2015 • The Rutherford Institute Calls on U.S. Supreme Court to Put an End to Agriculture 'Takings' Law Justifying Government Theft of Raisins

March 09, 2015 • Decrying the Use of Tasers, Excessive Force by Government Officials, Rutherford Institute Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Citizens Against Police Brutality

February 02, 2015 • Citing Right to Privacy, Travel & Association, Rutherford Institute Asks Supreme Court to Prohibit Police from Gaining Unfettered Access to Hotel Records


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