Main | Homeland Security: the view from inside the Beltway »

November 22, 2002

Another Baer Mauling in NYC

Infamous District Court Judge Harold Baer has come up with another stinker of a decision:

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a victory for a Ku Klux Klan group, a federal judge on Tuesday ruled that a New York state law violates the U.S. Constitution by barring public demonstrators from wearing masks.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer held that the law violates the free speech rights of the Butler, Indiana-based Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. If the judge's decision is upheld, members of the group would be able to hide their identities by wearing hoods and masks at future New York rallies.

The city said it would appeal."

You may recall that in March 1996, Judge Howard Baer, Jr., a Manhattan U.S. District Court jurist and Clinton appointee, set off a storm of criticism when he ruled that 80 pounds of cocaine and heroin found by police in a car could not be used as evidence.

The incident in Washington Heights (a lower middle class, largely Hispanic neighborhood in Northern Manhattan) involved two New York City police officers who observed a woman slowly drive down a street at 5 a.m., double park her car and open her trunk. Four men then emerged from between parked cars and placed two large duffel bags in the trunk. When the men spotted the police officers they ran away from the car and the woman drove off. After following the out-of-state rental car for several blocks, the officers stopped the car, searched the trunk, found the drugs and arrested the woman.

In declaring the drugs inadmissible, Judge Baer said there was no probable cause to search the car because it is not unusual for people to be leery of police in an inner-city neighborhood like Washington Heights.

After the public outcry about this ruling, including criticism from President Clinton and calls for his impeachment by Senator Dole, Baer reversed his decision and removed himself from the case.

In the current case, Judge Baer ruled that an 1840s NY State statute that prohibits two or more persons from "congregating" in public while wearing masks to obscure their identities was unconstitutional. To my way of thinking, preventing anonymous mobs from congregating in our cities is hardly an infringement of political speech. The law did nothing to restrict people's rights of assembly or free expression: it merely required that they show their faces while doing so.

Maybe the impeachment issue should be revisited in the 108th Congress...

November 22, 2002 at 01:25 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Another Baer Mauling in NYC:


The comments to this entry are closed.