The government was shut down on Monday but it didn’t stop Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from scolding the liberal D.C. Circuit Court in a 9-0 majority decision in District of Columbia v. Wesby, a case involving a salacious party gone wrong.
In overturning a $1 million judgment against the D.C. police department, Thomas called the lower court’s analysis siding with the party’s attendees as “an excessively technical dissection of the factors supporting probable cause,” according to Law & Crime.
He excoriated the lower court for not looking at “the whole picture,” from where the police were able to derive reasonable suspicion to find probable cause for arrest.
Thomas described the event as “utter Bacchanalia.”
Ten years ago, D.C. police responded to a noise complaint about a brick duplex. Thomas describes the scene when they arrived:
The living room had been converted into a makeshift strip club. Strippers in bras and thongs, with cash stuffed in their garter belts, were giving lap dances. Upstairs, the officers found a group of men with a single, naked woman on a bare mattress — the only bed in the house — along with multiple open condom wrappers and a used condom.
The apartment was without furniture with the exception of a few metal chairs and a bare mattress. When the police entered, people behaved suspicious, bolting to the closet to hide, and when cops ask questions, they gave multiple conflicting stories. Some claimed a woman named either “Tasty” or “Peaches” invited them to a bachelor party, others said it was a birthday party, Law & Crime reports.
No bachelor or birthday girl was ever found. Cops did identify “Peaches” and were able to question her, and shockingly, her story didn’t add up, either. When cops finally got in touch with the homeowner, he was unaware of the party. The police then arrested all 21 partygoers for trespassing.
Of the 21 arrested, 15 filed suit against the police department claiming there was no probable cause for their arrest because the cops had no reason to determine they had known they were trespassing.
“According to these plaintiffs, they had simply assumed they were ‘guests at a lawful (though bawdy) house party, in an inelegantly furnished home, [when] they partook in the party festivities,'” according to Law & Crime.
Giving the reasoning and rationale that was absent in the lower court opinion, Thomas wrote:
“… [T]he officers found a group of people who claimed to be having a bachelor party with no bachelor, in a near-empty house, with strippers in the living room and sexual activity in the bedroom, and who fled at the first sign of police.
And here, the totality of the circumstances gave the officers plenty of reasons to doubt the partygoers’ protestations of innocence.”
He also reprimanded the lower court for its analysis of “qualified immunity,” giving officers civil immunity if their behavior is within the confines of the law.
“Thomas’ opinion — that the D.C. Circuit based its analysis of immunity on arguments with zero case law to support it – offers guidance for future cases in D.C. and elsewhere,” according to Law & Crime.
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