PAT DOWNS AT BUCS GAMES RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL AGAIN-Andrew Stelzer

07/28/06

This afternoon, a federal judge ruled in favor of Gordon Johnston, a high shool civics teacher who didn’t think it was legal for fans to be subject to pat down searches on their way into Bucs games at Raymond James Staduim in Tampa.

The pat-down searches began at the start of last years season, but Johnstons lawsuit put them on hold, a decision that was upheld by the Second District Court of Appeal. The Tampa Sports Authority, the government agency that runs the football stadium for the city, appealed the case.

U.S. District Judge James Whittemore said today that the injunction against the pat-down searches will remain in place, sayingThe “mass suspicionless pat-downs� are unreasonable and violate both the Florida and U.S. constitutions. He said in order to perform a pat-down search without cause, a government agency would need to prove a special-needs exception to the rule that searches of people’s bodies are unconstitutional.

Whittemore wrote that the decision was based on constitutional law and had nothing to do with the wisdom of the pat-down policy or whether the average Bucs fan supports or objects to the searches.

“Any reasonable person appreciates the potential harm that would result from a terrorist attack at the stadium,� Whittemore wrote. “However, the gravity of the threat cannot alone justify the intrusiveness of a suspicionless search.�

The threat, he wrote, must be concrete and real, not hypothetical. Becky Steele is the regional director for the ACLU of Florida. The ACLU represented Johnston in the case.

STEELE ON PATDOWNS

That was Becky Steele, the regional director of the ACLU of Florida. Sports authority attorney says the decision will be made on Monday whether to appeal the decision.

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