Supreme Court without Scalia divided over giving police more leeway to stop people – Los Angeles Times

The Supreme Court resumed hearing arguments Monday for the first time since Justice Antonin Scalia‘s unexpected death and immediately plunged into a heated dispute over police powers that underscored how the remaining eight justices might find themselves increasingly deadlocked this term.

As they considered whether to give police more leeway to stop and question people in high-crime neighborhoods, the justices appeared split along familiar ideological lines, raising the possibility of what some predict could be several 4-4 votes without Scalia.

Before arguments began, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. opened the session with a tribute to Scalia, whose seat was draped with black cloth. The conservative justice was found dead at a Texas resort Feb. 13.

“We remember his incisive intellect, his agile wit and his captivating prose,” Roberts said. “But we cannot forget his irrepressible spirit. He was our man for all seasons, and we shall miss him beyond measure.”

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Once arguments got underway, the justices — now evenly split between Republican and Democratic appointees — voiced starkly different views on the case.

At issue is whether to relax the so-called “exclusionary rule” and permit the use of evidence that was found after an officer had illegally stopped a pedestrian or motorist.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the nation was in danger of “becoming a police state” if officers can stop every person on the corner, ask for identification, check for warrants and then search them if one is found.

But the chief justice said he saw no problem with an officer asking for identification from a man seen leaving a suspected drug house and checking to see if he had an outstanding arrest warrant.

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