Justice Sotomayor Gets Angry Over Police Stops of People of Color


Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday issued an angered dissent in a much deliberated Fourth Amendment case that has been decided this June. The case involves a Utah man who challenged his arrest based on a stop that was later found to be unlawful. Sotomayor writes that the majority’s opinion sanctions police stops “corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives.”

Sotomayor has been known to have prejudice moments of her own against white people, but the 5-3 majority decision in the Utah case has her revved up about dramatic ramifications for law-abiding minorities targeted by police. She writes:

“It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny,” she wrote. “For generations, black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk’ — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”

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