Emory students’ brief cited in SCOTUS dissent
12:38 pm, April 9th, 2012
They didn’t win the case, but last week a crew of Emory University law students had the thrill of receiving a hat tip from a Supreme Court justice.
The case was Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, a civil rights lawsuit brought by a man who was strip searched following an erroneous arrest on an outstanding bench warrant. Ruling on April 2, the high court divided 5-4 against the plaintiff, rejecting his proposal that new detainees not arrested for serious crimes or for offenses involving weapons or drugs be exempt from invasive searches unless they give officers a particular reason to suspect them of hiding contraband.
The Emory students had effectively sided with the plaintiff, filing an amicus brief on behalf of the Medical Society of New Jersey, the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights and other medical professionals. The brief was filed by the Emory Law School Supreme Court Advocacy Project, which is the brainchild of Emory 2L Kedar Bhatia. Emory students Audrey Patten and Michael Burshteyn, a co-founder of the Emory Supreme Court project, were co-leaders of the brief team, and counsel of record was listed as David Bederman, an Emory law professor who died in December.
The brief argued that a proposed justification for giving corrections officials broad powers for invasive searches—to prevent the spread of disease—was flawed because the average jail intake employees isn’t competent to identify things like staph infections. The students’ brief was cited by Stephen Breyer in his dissenting opinion, when he wrote that there is no connection between health concerns and the “genital lift” and the “squat and cough” to which the plaintiff allegedly was subjected.