- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2001

When nine brilliant minds can't agree on a law, how can they expect us to take their decisions seriously? The recent Supreme Court 5-4 split on allowing police to haul citizens into jail because of some minor misdemeanor infraction is a good example of politics and has nothing to do with justice. Imagine being handcuffed, fingerprinted and photographed because you were not wearing your seat belt. Perhaps this kind of law enforcement activity is supposed to take our minds off the war on drugs.

There are already enough low-paid, uneducated, power-hungry cops on the road. I expect this latest court decision to result in a raft of lawsuits against police departments, particularly in small towns and villages where a police officer is paid less than a fry cook at one of the burger dispensaries. The poor officer will now have to make decisions that the justices of the Supreme Court cannot agree on. For instance, he must decide if not wearing a seat belt warrants an arrest or a ticket. Perhaps police departments should enforce the law on a 5-to-4 basis, depending on how each officer feels.

When it comes to driving down our highways, all of us probably witness a hundred misdemeanors a day. Can you imagine the paperwork involved if the law enforcement people decided to crack down on every petty incident, and instead of issuing tickets made an arrest? Will we someday have a three-strikes-and-you-are-a-felon law? It seems every time the court meets we lose more freedom.

The Fourth Amendment has been trashed once again. We let drug dealers who have been illegally searched off the hook because it is determined the search was unreasonable. I guess the justices feel that the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply to seat belts. We have given entirely too much discretion to those involved in enforcing the law. The police are in many instances at the bottom of the financial chain in the legal world. We expect them to put into practice procedures that lawyers and high court judges don't agree on.

I have been stopped for speeding and asked to open my glove compartment. I know I did not have to comply with that request, but I did so to prevent a hassle. Stops like this occur every day, and unreasonable searches can be almost routine. “I saw a handle sticking out from under the seat,” is enough of a reason to eliminate the protection the Constitution gives all of us. An $18,000- a-year cop with a high school education is in charge of deciding what is reasonable and unreasonable when it comes to your rights.

Perhaps we should have a requirement that all nine of our most brilliant legal minds must agree on a law before it can become law. This business of 5-to-4 decisions has given us a majority rules legal system. Presidents stack the court like lawyers stack the jury. There must be some way to come up with laws that lawyers agree on. Politics and justice do not go hand in hand.



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