News & Press: Messages from the President

CACJ PRESIDENT’S CALL FOR UNITY IN THE WAKE OF RECENT ATROCITY TOWARDS ANOTHER AFRICAN AMERICAN

Thursday, May 28, 2020   (0 Comments)
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CACJ PRESIDENT’S CALL FOR UNITY IN THE WAKE OF
RECENT ATROCITY TOWARDS ANOTHER AFRICAN AMERICAN

Dear CACJ Members,

Again, we are witness to an atrocity. One cannot erase the indelible image of George Floyd being murdered by one police officer, while 3 others acted not for the benefit of the victim, but for the killer. This latest lynching occurred in full view of the public who were powerless to intervene on Mr. Floyd’s behalf because these armed thugs had not only the immediate ability to do the same to viewers, but also the ability to coordinate the immediate response from confederates whose first alliance is always to their comrades. Whether criminally prosecuted or not, whether fired or not, these rogue state actors will now seek refuge behind the court created  “qualified immunity” that I find to be at the fulcrum of everything from Colin Kaepernik’s worthy efforts to related events that are unfolding as this is written. 

“Qualified immunity” as it presently stands is pernicious. In Jessop v. City of Fresno, the Ninth Circuit granted immunity to several police officers who stole more than $225,000 in cash and rare coins while executing a search warrant. Oh, it was “morally wrong”. But, since no previous decision had ever involved the issue of “whether the theft of property covered by the terms of property covered by the terms of a search warrant, and seized pursuant to that warrant, violates the Fourth Amendment”, the police were in the clear. SCOTUS denied cert on May 18, 2020. 

For those of you who aren’t versed in the field of civil rights litigation, even though federal law makes the police civilly liable for the deprivation of “any rights” SCOTUS has dialed this back by substitution of the phrase “clearly established”.  The result is that absent case law places the fact of the alleged civil rights violation in stark detail and “beyond debate”, the cops and the cities that hired and trained them are not civilly liable for what we all would deem murder. And we all know which citizens they tend to murder. Under this rule, the more aberrant or outrageous the police conduct, the less it is likely for any other cops to have behaved in the exact same manner. The courts then say it’s not clearly established. End result, the cops and their employers not only get a free pass for committing unspeakable atrocities, their culture is imbued with the belief that they are incapable of violating anyone’s civil rights, particularly the rights of “fleeing” African Americans or even those who are playing video games with the kids in their own living rooms. And if the cop forgets to say that seeing a black person frightened them and then if DA fails to whitewash and prosecutes....well? I’d take those odds at Vegas any day. We must educate ourselves and out communities to demand that this insidious version of “qualified immunity” be abolished. CACJ’s Amicus Committee has or will surely weigh in on many if not all of “qualified immunity” cases that are coming before SCOTUS in future sessions. CACJ will be at the forefront. 

As a result of this judicial veil (spun from whole cloth - without any legal or sound public policy underpinnings), we witness protests, civil unrest, riots and looting. Indelibly biased commentators assembling the usual “two wrongs don’t make a right” along with their inevitable character assassinations are baying like mongrel dogs. Calls for peaceful protest, understanding and even healing of divisions will too appear on the horizon. As objective as we all are, it is impossible for any of us to remain on the periphery of this conflict.  Let no mistake be made, we are on the front lines!

Warriors for justice know the truth. And the truth is that African Americans and Latinos are systematically excluded from legal redress and they always have been. The truth is there is only so much that can be endured. As hard as it is to be constructive in the face of such an outrage, we know that this only scratches the surface of what lies beneath. And in spite of all this damn ignorance and hate, we must all stand stalwart and united for the rule of law. 

This truth is that our efforts to expand the protections of Batson are at the crux of this issue. Here and now in the Legislature via our sponsored AB 3070, we are guiding California to eliminate pervasive bias that is so institutionalized that few Californians even know it exists.  COVID or no COVID, Our Legislative Committee and Ignacio’s shop will tirelessly shepherd this landmark bill to the Governor’s desk. 

No matter where we individually mourn, protest or labor to remove the scourge of implicit bias from our California institutions, let us raise our heads and look to the future. CACJ will continue to demand what our name implies. 

ERIC H. SCHWEITZER


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