Pretextual Stops: The Rest of the Story

Pretextual Stops: The Rest of the Story

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Introduction

Pretextual stops made by law enforcement officers—stops aimed at serving some purpose other than the official reason for the stop—have received renewed attention in the public discourse following several high-profile law enforcement confrontations with people of color. Naturally, the conversations about pretextual stops have centered around their most horrid iteration: discriminatory stops made by bad cops. These stops are damaging to both motorists and officers, and conversations about them are undeniably important. But there is more to pretextual stops than the nefarious purposes attributed to them.

As a former police officer who regularly made pretextual stops for reasons entirely unrelated to race, I’d like to tell the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey would say). Whatever we as a society might decide about pretextual stops, the fact that cops regularly put pretext to use for good should be part of the conversation. To that end, this Essay offers a “boots on the ground” perspective. It aims to share how pretextual stops are used for good, and to shift the focus from how we can eliminate an officer’s discretion to make pretextual stops, to a candid evaluation of which laws are really worth having (and enforcing) and what else we might do to ameliorate the valid concerns that they raise.

I begin in Part I by outlining the doctrine of, and principal concerns with, pretextual stops. I complicate the issue in Part II by discussing the legitimate uses to which police officers regularly put pretextual stops. In Part III, I turn to a few thoughts about how to separate the bad from the good, refocusing the discussion as a question of what laws we want the police to enforce and how we might foster trust between the police and the policed.

 

J.E.B. Stuart VI*

J.D. 2021, University of Richmond School of Law; B.S. 2013, Virginia Tech
Prior to attending law school, the author served in multiple public-safety positions, including as a patrol deputy with a Virginia sheriff’s office.

Appoint Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to the Seventh Circuit

Appoint Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to the Seventh Circuit

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Appoint Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to the Seventh Circuit

 

On November 30, Seventh Circuit Judge Joel Flaum assumed senior status when he completed over four decades of rigorous public service as a prominent jurist. On that day, the Senate resumed the prolonged lame duck session, which the GOP upper chamber majority began after voters had elected Joe Biden to replace former President Donald Trump. Trump correctly refrained from nominating Flaum’s successor. Four months later, President Biden dutifully announced that he would name Candace Jackson-Akiwumi to replace Flaum. Jackson-Akiwumi is a particularly qualified, mainstream nominee. Because she comprehensively answered senators’ complex, probing questions, and the Seventh Circuit lacks any people of color, the Senate must promptly confirm her.

 

*Carl Tobias

* Williams Chair in Law, University of Richmond. I wish to thank Peggy Sanner and Jamie Wood for ideas, Leslee Stone for excellent processing, University of Richmond Law Review Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sullivan and Online Editor Tesia Kempski for expeditious, careful editing, as well as, Russell Williams and the Hunton Andrews Kurth Summer Endowment Research Fund for generous, continuing support. Remaining errors are mine.

 

 

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