Two Rulings Against Police State
Government Went Too Far, Courts Rule
Two exciting court decisions in the last two weeks. These curb -- however slightly -- the out-of-control efforts by government to intrude on personal privacy. Here are short summaries of each story.
Thanks to the ACLU, City of Hollywood Urine Drug Testing Policy Declared Unconstitutional by Federal CourtMIAMI -- A court has struck down as unconstitutional a City of Hollywood policy that required that all new city employees to undergo urine screening for drugs, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp comes more than a year after the ACLU initially challenged the invasive policy on behalf of Thomas Baron, an accountant whose job offer from the city was rescinded after he refused to take a urine test.
"Judge Ryskamp's decision is an affirmation of the privacy rights and dignity of working people," said ACLU Cooperating Attorney Ephraim Hess, who represented Baron along with his law partner Colleen O'Loughlin and ACLU of Florida Legal Director Andy Kayton.
"Today's decision from the federal court confirms that highly personal and humiliating urine tests of employees, without suspicion that those employees are using drugs, are unconstitutional."
Baron was hired by the City of Hollywood after working as a temporary accountant through an agency for three months. His duties included preparing bank reconciliations of all accounts and preparing a database of all lease agreements with the city, as well as other sources of city revenue.
Baron received praise for the quality of his work performance from the City's accounting managers, and after a three-month period, city officials hired Baron as part of the city's accounting pool. But when he refused to submit to the City's drug test as a matter of principle, the city revoked its decision to hire him.
Now justice is being served.
Drug law ruled unconstitutional(exerpts from a report by Sam Skolnik of the Seattle Post-intelligencer)
The Seattle city law that shuts down businesses in which drugs are dealt on the premises has suffered a serious blow from the Washington Court of Appeals.
The case stemmed from the city's use of the law to try to close Oscar's II, a popular Central Area nightclub. The law, passed in 1988, was initially aimed at rooting crack houses and other drug dens out of neighborhoods.
It allowed the state to confiscate land for a year where drug dealing occurs. Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran claims to have used the law as part of his ongoing campaign to curb drug use and violence in nightclubs.
The three-judge appeals court panel used strong words in a unanimous ruling that held that the law as it applied to Oscar's was unconstitutional.
"It certainly cannot be presumed that the owners of (nightclub and other businesses) . . . can guarantee that they will detect every incident of illegal drug activity, let alone prevent it," the judges wrote.
"To believe otherwise would require a presumption that an owner could see through clothes, tables, walls and doors, as well as to read minds."
The city's closure of Oscar's II was "shocking abuse of the statute by the Seattle Police Department and Seattle City Attorney," said David Osgood, the attorney for the owners of the club, Oscar and Barbara McCoy.
"What we learned today is that those officials who abuse the law can have it taken away from them," Osgood said. "This decision severely limits the scope of this law. If it's not dead, it's severely wounded."
Indeed, Court of Appeals judges Marlin Appelwick, Susan Agid and Anne Ellington concluded that the law, as applied in this case, was an unconstitutional taking of the McCoy's property and a violation of their due process rights.
"The record does not support a finding that the McCoys acquiesced in any illegal drug activity or turned a blind eye to it," the judges wrote.
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