Crime & Justice

Supreme Court throws out gun search suit against LA County sheriff's deputy

The U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court.
Christopher Chan/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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The U.S. Supreme Court has tossed out a lawsuit against a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. The case involved a search for weapons, criticized as too broad.

Deputy Curt Messerschmidt filled out the paperwork for a search warrant to look for guns and evidence of gang affiliation at the L.A. home of Augusta Millender. Her foster son was suspected of firing five shots at a former girlfriend, telling her, "I told you never to call the cops on me."

Millender claimed the search was “unreasonable,” calling it a domestic dispute, not a gang-related incident. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The U.S. Supreme Court did not.

In writing for the 6-3 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said three people besides the deputy signed off on the warrant. It was not entirely unreasonable, he said, to think the boyfriend Jerry Ray Bowen wanted to prevent his girlfriend from telling police about his affiliation with the Mona Park Crips.

In writing the dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said it wasn’t “objectively reasonable” for police to search for all guns and all evidence related to “any street gang.”