Criminal Justice

RELEASE: Court’s Conservatives Take Battering Ram to Miranda, Accountability

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the Supreme Court’s ruling today in Vega v. Tekoh, Constitutional Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra issued the following reaction:

The Supreme Court’s six-justice conservative majority today took a battering ram to one of the most cherished constitutional rights in America. It is also one of the most recognized rights in America, as anyone who has watched a police procedural on television can probably quote much of it by heart.

In Vega, the conservative majority closes the courthouse doors to persons suing in a court of law to vindicate the Fifth Amendment rights safeguarded by Miranda. Justice Alito’s opinion is based in part on the idea that Miranda is not a constitutional right. This is dead wrong. When the Fifth Amendment was ratified, it was understood to be safeguarding a right against self-incrimination that had long existed under the common law, functioning as a direct limit on how officials questioned suspected offenders. The text of the Fifth Amendment reflects the Framers’ broad goals, and nothing in that text reduces the Self-Incrimination Clause to a mere rule of evidence for prosecutors and courts. Thus, under the original understanding of the Fifth Amendment, Officer Vega participated in the deprivation of Tekoh’s constitutional rights.

Justice Alito’s opinion also ignores that Congress, in enacting Section 1983, created an express cause of action to allow individuals to sue to redress violations of constitutional rights by state and local actors. By gutting the remedy Congress provided in Section 1983, the 6-3 conservative majority hollows out Miranda. In so doing, the conservative majority of the Roberts Court does again what it has done far too often: rewrites the law in a way that facilitates police abuse by putting accountability out of reach.

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Resources:

CAC case page in Vega v. Tekoh: https://www.theusconstitution.org/litigation/vega-v-tekoh/

CAC BLOG: “Awaiting Major Cases in the Shadow of Dobbs,” Charles Miller, May 17, 2022: https://www.theusconstitution.org/blog/awaiting-major-cases-in-the-shadow-of-dobbs/

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Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit CAC’s website at www.theusconstitution.org.

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