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In a dispute that has been dragging on for six years, a judge of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday, June 20, that San Diegan Sherida Felder can go ahead with a racial-profiling suit against two Utah policemen.

In 2008, Felder, an African-American, was driving two then-teenagers to a football game in Colorado. Utah police pulled her over for speeding and wanted to search the car for drugs. Felder wouldn't give them permission, and police held them for two and a half hours in a futile search for drugs.

In 2009, Felder sued for racial profiling. On June 20, the appellate judge ruled that police did not have cause to search her car, which presents the opportunity for Felder's civil suit against the police for racial profiling. However, the judge said there was insufficient evidence for him to rule on whether there was racial profiling.

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shirleyberan June 23, 2014 @ 11 a.m.

Probably searched because there were 2 teenagers in the car. Just kiddin'. Most likely, was cops who don't care about civil rights.

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Don Bauder June 23, 2014 @ 12:21 p.m.

shirleyberan: You might be right: the cops went ahead with the search because there were two African-American teenagers in the car. And yes, often cops don't care about civil rights, particularly when dealing with African-Americans. That is just a sad fact about our society. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder June 23, 2014 @ 12:22 p.m.

CaptainObvious: It must be, or this case wouldn't have gone so far. But yours is an interesting question. Best, Don Bauder

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MURPHYJUNK June 24, 2014 @ 8:08 a.m.

if someone does not look like they belong there, they are profiled.

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Don Bauder June 24, 2014 @ 2:15 p.m.

Murphyjunk: If you go online, you can find examples of that in Utah. Best, Don Bauder

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Jimgee June 23, 2014 @ 2:25 p.m.

This case exposes a gaping hole in our justice system. Those cops should be facing years of hard time in big-boy prison, not nearly toothless civil penalties, if they really were engaging in racial profiling.

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Don Bauder June 23, 2014 @ 3:10 p.m.

Jimgee: I don't know about hard time in prison, but I think they should get punished severely.

We should also look at Utah's laws on racial profiling. The state obviously has them, but do they have teeth? In the financial area -- my interest -- Utah has very little regulation. The federal government does have regulators there, but generally speaking, Utah is a little like the Cayman Islands: see no evil, hear no evil. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh June 23, 2014 @ 6:57 p.m.

Don, you did not mention where this suit was filed. I'd suppose it was in federal court. The question in such a case has little to do with state laws; rather, it is based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That makes it a "federal case". After the state Rodney King acquittal, those LA cops were successfully prosecuted in the federal arena. The state situation was irrelevant.

On the basis of some really strange Utah prosecutions, I am not sure that the plaintiff will prevail. (It took Utah years to decide if the kidnapper of Elizabeth Smart was sane and/or if he was guilty. Seemed like a slam dunk to me. But ya' nevah know.) I'd also assume that the suit would be tried in Utah.

At a minimum, those cops should have been fired. As in all of those who were involved, even if it went up to the level of the chief. What do you want to bet that didn't happen, and never will?

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Don Bauder June 24, 2014 @ 7:28 a.m.

Visduh: The case was definitely filed in federal court. The Tenth Circuit appeals court is federal. I had assumed, perhaps wrongly, that since one of the two police officers was a Utah state patrolman, that there were racial profiling laws in Utah. In a cursory search, I cannot determine that one way or another. It is a very interesting question. Best, Don Bauder

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Jimgee June 24, 2014 @ 2 p.m.

Don, I think we will have to disagree on this one. SOCAL cops have been getting away with unlawful treatment of suspects for years. They commit serious violations, such as beating hell out of suspects, the municipalities pay off huge civil judgements, and the cops go right out back on patrol, without facing stiff enough punishment to deter others from commiting the same violations. Civil penalties don't seem to change bad behavior; maybe criminal penalties will.

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Don Bauder June 24, 2014 @ 2:18 p.m.

Jimgee: I am open to that argument. I just said that in this case, since a judge can't conclude racial profiling is involved, hard time is inappropriate. The case strongly suggests it involved racial profiling, to be sure. Best, Don Bauder

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Jimgee June 24, 2014 @ 5:18 p.m.

Don, Fair enough. Without solid proof, I agree that criminal sanctions are not justified.

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Don Bauder June 25, 2014 @ 7:19 a.m.

Jimgee: The selection of jurors in Utah could be very interesting. Best, Don Bauder

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jnojr June 23, 2014 @ 2:47 p.m.

Sounds like the judge has it right... the detention and search were unwarranted, but there's no evidence it was racially motivated. Let's fire the cop(s) who violated basic Constitutional rights, but let's move on from these unfounded allegations of "racism" which are made for one reason, and one reason only... to collect a check from the taxpayer. The taxpayer did nothing wrong here. If the actions were wrong, hold individual(s) 100% accountable. If there is no need to fire anyone, then there's no need for the taxpayer to write a check.

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Don Bauder June 23, 2014 @ 3:12 p.m.

jnojr: Evidence of racial profiling is subjective. Would a Utah jury see it, when a jury in another state might? Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell June 23, 2014 @ 8:48 p.m.

The cops claimed they had probable cause to search the vehicle because (1) Felder failed to maintain eye contact, (2) the license plate frame had "Jesus" written on it, (3) they obeserved air freshener in the center console, and (4) Duke the dog "alerted" on the car. Felder should have sued Duke. He's the real culprit. That damn Duke!

http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/12/12-4154.pdf

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Don Bauder June 24, 2014 @ 7:31 a.m.

Burwell: In reading the case, I assumed that the reason the dog entered the car was there was beef jerky the dog wanted. The judge made it very clear that the search for drugs was unwarranted based on the evidence. Best, Don Bauder

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Ken Harrison June 24, 2014 @ 7:40 a.m.

The Sheriff in Mono County just lost his job (voted out in a 2to1 margin) partially over a similar incident of a Cardiff man, search without probably cause. That and busting San Diego pot smokers coming back from Burning Man last Labor Day.

http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2014/jan/21/stringers-encinitas-man-arrested-guns-mono-county/

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Don Bauder June 24, 2014 @ 7:56 a.m.

Ken Harrison: Maybe somebody knows the answer to this. I haven't followed the situation closely enough to suggest an answer. Colorado has legalized recreational pot. Suppose Coloradans smoke pot in a car, then drive that car into another state, without taking the marijuana along.

But the car smells of marijuana. The car is stopped for speeding by police, who smell the pot. The cops then do a search. Is it justifiable? Best, Don Bauder

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