Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote Monday that the court is developing a “disturbing trend” of siding with police officers accused of excessive force at the expense of their alleged victims, a notion disputed by two of her colleagues.
Sotomayor was arguing that the court should have accepted the case of Richardo Salazar-Limon, who was shot in the back by Houston police officer Chris Thompson in 2010. A federal district judge dismissed Salazar-Limon’s suit before trial, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld that decision.
What happened in the incident that left Salazar-Limon crippled is disputed, Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, and a decision on which man is telling the truth should be made by “a jury sitting as finder of fact, not a judge reviewing a paper record.”
What made Sotomayor’s dissent unusual was the criticism of the court’s past decisions.
Her colleagues’ failure to accept the case “continues a disturbing trend regarding the use of this court’s resources,” Sotomayor wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
As the issue of police shootings has taken on new prominence in the national debate, Sotomayor has been the justice most outspoken about whether police officers too often have received the legal benefit of the doubt.
In 2015, she was the lone dissenter to a ruling that a Texas state trooper who shot and killed a fleeing suspect in a high-speed chase could not be held civilly liable for the man’s death, even though the officer’s superior had told him not to shoot.
Sotomayor said her colleagues were “sanctioning a ‘shoot first, think later’ approach.”