It's gratifying to see that the Oregonian finally ran a front-page story on the city's Secret List program this morning:
For the first time since Portland police created a secret list five years ago identifying the 35 most-frequently arrested petty criminals in the city's core, the American Civil Liberties Union and a trio of defense attorneys are challenging its constitutionality.
Of course, if the judge had asked a breastfeeding woman to put a towel over it, there'd be 100 "lactivists" outside that courthouse (alerted by the Batsignal atop Sip 'n' Kranz), by now. Still, eight months for a story like this to make the Oregonian is a comparably short period of time here, I suppose.
Hearings for both sides are now complete, and a transcript of the hearing will be prepared so that both sides can prepare legal briefs on the issue before oral arguments in front of Judge Dale Koch in late February. In the mean time, Old Town cop Jeff Myers has been ordered to review his boxes of information relating to the list and produce, free of charge, any information relating to the enhanced prosecution aspect of the list. Previously the police bureau had offered to do this for a mere $3000. But justice, it seems, is free of charge.
ACLU Partner Attorney Elden Rosenthal declined comment on the case until the judge's verdict on constitutionality, but he did give the Mercury the quote in the title of this blog post. Meanwhile, Judge Koch closed with this quote:
"There have been many interesting and difficult issues involved and I appreciate the professionalism with which the issues have been presented here. As much as I knew about what was going on, this was very enlightening in terms of how were focusing on these particular offenders. Regardless of how everything works the issue is whether it meets statutory and constitutional muster, and we'll resolve that when we come back in February."
Indeed. There'll be a full writeup of the hearing, complete with juicy details and some really damning quotes, in the Mercury next week, but in the mean time if I were the city I'd be starting to count the potential cost of litigation by a list of 350 individuals whose due process rights have been denied for five years. In a time when Portland is rapidly approaching bankruptcy, it would be a shame if one cop's confusion over his role as an enforcer of the law/social worker pushed things over the edge. What's really needed here, of course, is a Michael Clayton character. Somebody to make the whole thing go away...but all signs seem to point to the opposite. Next stop, the Supreme Court?