Judge Alito dissented from a Third Circuit ruling that police officers had violated clearly established constitutional rights. Police had strip-searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while executing a search warrant authorizing only the search of her husband and their home. Then-Third Circuit Judge Michael Chertoff, now Secretary of Homeland Security, held that the unauthorized search violated "clearly established" rights. Alito disagreed, arguing that even if the warrant did not authorize the search, an officer still could have read the warrant as allowing it.Powerline reviewed this case October 31 here. Hindraker notes and it sure seems persausive to me,
Liberals' reference to a "strip search" by officers will evoke images of slavering voyeurs gratuitously disrobing a mother and child, so it is important to understand what really happened. This description comes from the majority opinion:
The officers decided to search Jane and Mary Doe for contraband, and sent for the meter patrol officer. When she arrived, the female officer removed both Jane and Mary Doe to an upstairs bathroom. They were instructed to empty their pockets and lift their shirts. The female officer patted their pockets. She then told Jane and Mary Doe to drop their pants and turn around. No contraband was found. With the search completed, both Jane and Mary Doe were returned to the ground floor to await the end of the search.
Judge Alito made it clear that he was not pleased by the fact that searches of this nature may be necessary. But, as in so many other instances, the problem doesn't arise from gratuitous malice on the part of police officers, it arises from the tactics of drug dealers:
I share the majority’s visceral dislike of the intrusive search of John Doe’s young daughter, but it is a sad fact that drug dealers sometimes use children to carry out their business and to avoid prosecution. I know of no legal principle that bars an officer from searching a child (in a proper manner) if a warrant has been issued and the warrant is not illegal on its face. Because the warrant in this case authorized the searches that are challenged – and because a reasonable officer, in any event, certainly could have thought that the warrant conferred such authority – I would reverse.
Every indication is that the officers in this case met the highest professional standards. What did they get for their pains? They got sued. Judge Alito's opinion in Groody is well-reasoned and highly persuasive. There is no reason why leftists should be allowed to use it to cast doubt on Alito's qualifications. On the contrary, it is a good illustration of why we need jurists like Judge Alito on the Supreme Court.