Tiny Victories

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

A panel for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled a federal district court judge who dismissed a family’s lawsuit against the DEA. The lawsuit comes from a mistaken drug raid (someone apparently wrote down the wrong license plate number) in which DEA agents pointed a gun at the head of an 11-year-old girl while she lay handcuffed on the floor.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Whalen had ruled that DEA agents did not act unreasonably in their mistaken raid and treatment of the girls (the 11-year-old and her 14-year-old sister). But lest you overestimate the significance of the ruling, note that the panel did not rule that the agents acted unreasonably. They merely overturned the lower court’s ruling that the family should be denied the opportunity to have their case heard.

The panel also upheld Whalen’s ruling that there was nothing unreasonable about DEA agents cuffing and pointing guns at the girls’ parents while serving a search warrant for a consensual crime at the wrong house.

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17 Responses to “Tiny Victories”

  1. #1 |  35-year lawyer | 

    5 gets you 10 the District Court Judge was a former government lawyer.

    He’d never allow this in HIS home (but of course not even DEA makes “mistaken address” raids on federal judges’ homes – the neighborhood is too expensive). It is sooooooo difficult for the
    Aristocracy to “feel the pain” of the middle class.

  2. #2 |  EH | 

    Loving the ad in the sidebar for “online degrees in criminal justice” from, get this, “American Military University.” Not that they’d be anything more than University of Phoenix debt-collectors, but…shudder.

  3. #3 |  Burgers Allday | 

    I think his nam is relly Whelan and he was a Deputy district attorney of San Diego, CA from 1969 to 1989.

  4. #4 |  Pricknick | 

    We are so fucked if we call that a tiny victory. It’s a loss an lessor grounds.

  5. #5 |  Ron | 

    Yeah, the last two paragraphs of this post makes it feel like yet another defeat.

  6. #6 |  jmcross | 

    Certainly a teenager is more crafty than a dog, even a pit bull, and therefore perfectly capable of causing drug warriors to fear for their safety. Those children should be thankful that they weren’t dropped in a hail of panicky gunfire. And the father who failed to OBEY the lawful commands of those protecting his family from the contraband that wasn’t there is still owed a beatdown for his insolence.

  7. #7 |  Bronwyn | 

    I’m getting a headache from squinting so hard, trying to find the victory in there.

  8. #8 |  Mike T | 

    #6

    It should be a shot across the bow to any claim of “new professionalism” that “highly trained” paramilitary professionals dealing with young female civilians have to use the same methods on them that they’d use on grown men. That says that they possess no discernible competence at hand-to-hand combat or restraint, which would by definition be a mark of “being highly trained.” To say nothing of their inability to use psychological tools to control the situation.

    What we really need is to end the armaments transfer program and create a national fund/mandate that provides for mandatory Aikido training for all law enforcement officers to complement their firearms qualifications.

  9. #9 |  Jack Dempsey | 

    Tiny victory indeed.

  10. #10 |  CyniCAl | 

    Another dog bites man story. The system supports the agents deputized to perpetuate the system.

    Shocker.

    The system itself is beyond reproach and always will be, else the system ceases to exist. Prime directive #1 is that the system takes priority above all else.

    Only if it can be proved that a State agent acted solely for personal gain or in otherwise purely criminal fashion will the agent be punished or the methods called into question. This is another way of saying that the agent in question has threatened the system, challenged its sovereignty by propounding his own.

    Meanwhile, in CA yesterday, a jury found a Riverside cop guilty of rape for purely criminal behavior conducted outside the line of duty. That’s a victory, but a small one imposed by the State on itself and well after the harm was done.

  11. #11 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    The state works hand-in-hand. One hand punches you in the mouth and the other hand washes your blood off the knuckles.

    Respect authority.

  12. #12 |  Personanongrata | 

    The lawsuit comes from a mistaken drug raid (someone apparently wrote down the wrong license plate number) in which DEA agents pointed a gun at the head of an 11-year-old girl while she lay handcuffed on the floor.

    The panel also upheld Whalen’s ruling that there was nothing unreasonable about DEA agents cuffing and pointing guns at the girls’ parents while serving a search warrant for a consensual crime at the wrong house.

    So much for the presumption of innocence and so much for proper weapons safety (eg pointing your weapon at the head of an 11 year old).

    However would the panel for the US 9th Circut react if the “professionals” at the DEA kicked in their door in a mistaken raid and then had the “professionals” terrorize everyone found on site by waving loaded weapons at them?

    Move along folks, nothing to see here, simply business as usual.

    These types of para-military police actions remind me of a quote from Aleksandr I Solzhenitsyn’s experiment in literary investigation, The Gulag Archipelago:

    “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

    I guess Americans didn’t love freedom enough to cast of the repressive yoke of US government terrorism and tyrannywe purely and simply deserve what will happen afterward.

  13. #13 |  Personanongrata | 

    PS Why didn’t DEA simply knock on the door?

  14. #14 |  croaker | 

    #10 Though Scott Greenberg supports the Twinkie Defense in that case.

    #13 Because then they wouldn’t have the opportunity to use the fun military toys they brought along or the opportunity to instill fear into the neighborhood, which is the primary purpose of such raids.

  15. #15 |  Paul Rattner | 

    What’s the big deal? The courts are right when they say it is perfectly reasonable for the DEA, or any other armed state or federal agency, to kick down your door, shoot your dog, hold your kids at gunpoint, and ransack your house on suspicion of whatever crime they think you may be involved in. And if you don’t get “down on the fucking ground” quickly enough, or make a “furtive move toward the waistband” and get shot, well, the agent was only defending his own life, you monster.

    How could any sane adult think otherwise? And while a surface reading of the constitution seems to specifically forbid these sorts of raids and the laws behind them, experts like highly trained government lawyers and supreme court judges read that same language and and can definitively assure us those words don’t mean what ordinary people think they mean.

  16. #16 |  GreginOz | 

    Nope, I am not sorry to say this & it’s got to happen soon…

    Point a gun at my 11 year old, coppa? You are a dead man walking, you just don’t know it yet. I will hunt you down & blow your fucking head off. No histrionics, no ranting or raving, just locate, identify, confirm, kill.

  17. #17 |  Ed | 

    #16 I suggest preemptive strikes.

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