Supreme Court or YouTube: Scott v. Harris

Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769 (2007), involves a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against a state police officer. Harris was involved in a high-speed chase, during which he was being chased by the police. Deputy Scott pulled Harris over by hitting the rear of his car, known as Pursuit Intervention Technique, attempting to get him to come to a stop. Harris lost control, crashed, and thereafter found his limbs inoperative.

Harris sued Deputy Scott on the theory that hitting the back of his vehicle was excessive force resulting in an unreasonable search under the Forth Amendment. The 11th circuit held that Deputy Scott was not entitled to immunity, because the law was sufficiently clear at the time to give reasonable law enforcement authorities fair notice that ramming a vehicle under the circumstances of this case was unlawful.

The Supreme Court found that the threshold question of whether Deputy Scott violated the Fourth Amendment was resolved, in large part, by the video from the patrol car taken during the chase. The Court determined that Deputy Scott’s actions were reasonable to terminate the dangerous high-speed chase, which threatened the lives of innocent bystanders. Deputy Scott’s actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment even when it placed the fleeing driver at risk of injury or death.

Justice Stevens authors a dissenting opinion, in which he call into question the driving prowess of this fellow justices,

Had they [the justices] learned to drive when most high-speed driving took place on two-lane roads rather than on superhigh-ways—when split-second judgments about the risk of passing a slow-poke in the face of oncoming traffic were routine—they might well have reacted to the videotape more dispassionately

It leaves one wondering how Justice Stevens drives.

Here is the YouTube connection. On the Supreme Court’s website there are links to pdf. versions of the Court opinions, and in the Scott case there is a link to the video. (Scott is #37). It looks just like a clip from a Fox program on deadly police chases. What will the future hold for electronic evidence? Will the Supreme Court, or any other court, begin to post pictures of victims, video of the trial, or forensic results?


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1 Comment

Filed under Appellate Law, Culture, Law, Supreme Court

One response to “Supreme Court or YouTube: Scott v. Harris

  1. You know, yojoe, the issue that occurs to me on reading this is, just how old are most of these Justices? I very clearly recall my 75 year old grandmother grasping for dear life for the side of the car when I took corners at 10 mph. I’d think there’s quite a non-legal context that influences how some judges approach issues, particularly this one.

    Sigh. Impartial/blindfolded justice: don’t pick the older judges when you’re a defendant in a case involving an auto chase.


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