Police Actions in Ill. Search Are Upheld 

Police Actions in Ill. Search Are Upheld 
Posted by FoM on February 20, 2001 at 21:13:47 PT
By Charles Lane, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that police waiting for a warrant to search a suspect's home may briefly prevent the suspect from going into the house unless he has a police escort.The case, Illinois v. McArthur, began in 1997 when Charles McArthur's estranged wife informed police officers that he had marijuana in the trailer they shared in Sullivan, Ill. Police kept McArthur outside for about two hours, permitting him to enter only under the watchful eye of an officer, while they waited for a search warrant.
When it came, they entered the trailer, found a small amount of drugs and arrested McArthur. Illinois courts, however, considered the search impermissible and threw out the drug evidence, which consisted of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana. Illinois appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.Writing for an eight-member majority, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the police acted appropriately, given their understandable fear that McArthur might try to destroy the evidence if he went into the house by himself. Breyer's opinion also credited the police for showing restraint by neither arresting McArthur nor attempting to search his trailer before the warrant arrived.The police, Breyer wrote, "imposed a restraint that was both limited and tailored reasonably to secure law enforcement needs while protecting privacy interests."The lone dissenter on the court, Justice John Paul Stevens, suggested that the majority had gotten "the balance wrong." The police interest in "prosecuting this petty offense" could not justify even a relatively modest intrusion on the "sanctity of the ordinary citizen's home," Stevens wrote.Separately, the court, by a vote of 5 to 4, held that a state high school athletic association made up of both public and private schools can be considered a "state actor" for purposes of enforcing civil rights laws.In 1997, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association imposed various sanctions on Brentwood Academy, a private school football powerhouse in Tennessee, for alleged recruiting violations. Brentwood Academy sued, claiming that the penalties violated the school's civil rights.A federal appeals court with jurisdiction over Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee dismissed the suit, ruling that the association, which is financed largely by football and basketball ticket sales, did not function as a governmental body in the state and therefore could not be sued under federal civil rights law.That court's holding was at variance with the rule in most other parts of the country, setting the stage for Supreme Court intervention.The majority opinion by Justice David H. Souter held that "the pervasive entwinement" of public schools and their officials with the association made it an arm of the state government."There would be no recognizable association, legal or tangible, without the public school officials, who do not merely control but overwhelmingly perform all but the purely ministerial acts by which the association exists and functions in practical terms," Souter wrote.The court thus rejected the association's contention that permitting Brentwood to sue would open the high school sports association to a flood of litigation. Still, insofar as it preserved the right to sue a quasi-state body under federal civil rights law in the limited area of interscholastic sports, yesterday's ruling seemed to represent a modest variation on the recent trend at the court toward insulating state government from suits by individuals claiming various forms of discrimination. For the most part, those decisions have been 5 to 4, with pro-states' rights conservatives in the majority.The five-justice majority yesterday was made up of the court's four liberal-leaning justices -- Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Breyer and Stevens -- joined by Sandra Day O'Connor, who usually votes with the conservatives.Justice Clarence Thomas -- in a dissenting opinion joined by three other members of the court's conservative bloc, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony M. Kennedy -- said that the majority's opinion "not only extends state-action doctrine beyond its permissible limits but also encroaches upon the realm of individual freedom that the doctrine was meant to protect."Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Charles Lane, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Wednesday, February 21, 2001; Page A03 Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Related Articles:Court: Cops Can Bar Some From Home Court Asked To Decide on Police Rights
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