People For the American Way

Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears: Trump Circuit Judge Casts the Deciding Vote Against an Individual’s Fourth Amendment Rights

News and Analysis
Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears: Trump Circuit Judge Casts the Deciding Vote Against an Individual’s Fourth Amendment Rights

“Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties.

In May 2019, Trump Seventh Circuit Judge Michael Brennan cast the deciding vote in 2-1 decision against an individual’s Fourth Amendment protection against an unreasonable search and seizure.

In U.S. v. Antoine Richmond, Antoine Richmond was walking home at night in a high crime area. Richmond had one hand in the front pocket of his T-shirt. Two police officers were patrolling the area in their squad car and noticed Richmond. One of the officers suspected that the bulge from the front pocket of Richmond’s T-shirt was a gun in his pocket. The officers parked the car and saw Richmond walk up the steps of his home and place an unidentified object between the front door and screen door. Richmond closed the screen door as the officers approached the house. Richmond was calm and cooperative. While one officer questioned Richmond on the front porch, the other officer walked past Richmond, opened the screen door and saw a gun.

Richmond was arrested and charged with unlawful firearm possession as someone with a past felony conviction. In district court, Richmond moved to suppress the seizure of the gun and he lost.

The majority agreed with the district court’s ruling concluding that the search was a reasonable response to a reasonable suspicion of danger. The totality of the circumstances gave rise to reasonable suspicion that Richmond was carrying a gun and was dangerous.

Judge Diane Wood strongly disagreed with the majority’s conclusion, saying that there was nothing that supported a finding that Richmond was doing anything wrong, and that without a warrant or probable cause,  to search the home, which includes areas immediately surrounding and associated with the house like the front porch, the police violated the Fourth Amendment when they opened the screen door and seized the gun. The violations exceeded the boundaries of any express or implied license.

Our Constitution mandates that all citizens have equal protection under the law. That includes freedom from racial profiling and unreasonable searches. Decisions like Judge Brennan’s that affirm racial profiling in policing, undermines Black and brown communities’ safety and freedom. And with a slew of Trump judicial nominees who refuse to affirmthe correctness of  the judicial decision that sparked the fight for civil rights in our country, it’s critical that we continue to fight for fair-minded constitutionalists who value equality and justice for all Americans.