Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Why I take my hat off to Martin Escobar.

Arizona's longtime paleocon/populist blowhard Ernest Hancock, whatever his many faults, has made a few good observations over the years. One to remember is that if you have a "government number" it is far easier to get attention. Translating "government number" out of Ernie-speak, that means that if you are participating in some sort of governmental process, be it by running for office or filing a lawsuit, you will more likely be considered newsworthy.

Tucson, AZ policeman Martin Escobar probably doesn't know who Ernie Hancock is, but appears to have taken that advice. His lawsuit, alleging violations of his 42 U.S.C. §1983, First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment protected rights due to SB 1070, gained him national attention. The text of the complaint may be found on CNN.com and several other news outlets; the last time I checked, it wasn't yet available from the courts, but probably will be. National attention, yes, but on reading the complaint, the lawsuit appears not only frivolous but blatantly and unapologetically frivolous. Escobar doesn't appear to have suffered injury, be compelled to suffer injury, or otherwise have standing, and his counsel doesn't even try to link the pages upon pages of Escobar's reflections on policing in southern Tucson to his allegations of rights violations.

But my hat goes off to Escobar, not for the publicity in itself, but for bringing the realities of policing in Tucson south of 22nd Street to public attention. A document with a "government number" explaining that neither use of the Spanish language, nor dressing in a Mexican fashion, nor listening to norteƱo music, nor ethnic appearance, nor skill with the English language constitute reasonable suspicion that one is an alien, let alone an alien without the right visa, now exists, both as a matter of public record an in the popular consciousness. Escobar himself now has the name recognition for ACLU-AZ or whoever else will bring eventual Fourth or Fifth Amendment suits concerning the enforcement of SB 1070 to think of him when they need expert testimony concerning the meaning of "reasonable suspicion" and "probable cause" when visa status is in question.

A single frivolous lawsuit will likely achieve far more than the dumbed-down chants of thousands of protesters.

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