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Court of Appeals Rejects PJC Argument Against Racial Profiling

The Court of Appeals issued an opinion on December 13, 2004, in Lee v. Cline, No. 8, Court of Appeals of Maryland, September Term 2003 -- a case attacking racial profiling during traffic stops by the Sheriff of Frederick County. The case involved a person who alleges he was stopped by a deputy sheriff because he fit the profile of a drug runner: a black male driving an expensive car.  Mr. Lee is a black male investment advisor, who was stopped while driving his BMW, and declined the Sheriff's request to search the vehicle. Even though his identify was verified and the sheriff confirmed there were no warrants on him, the sheriff detained him while canine drug sniffers were brought in. The plaintiff was ultimately released after no drugs were found.
The Public Justice Center joined an amicus brief written by the ACLU urging the Court to hold that state public officials are not entitled to qualified immunity under the Maryland Tort Claims Act when they violate provisions of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.  The Court of Appeals ruled against this position, holding that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. However, the Court also found that there was sufficient evidence of malice by the officer to be remanded to the trial court.  A finding of malice would overcome the deputy sheriff's qualified immunity. 

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