Judge Rules Stadium Searches Unconstitutional
A Florida appeals court judge ruled that searches of fans entering sports stadia were unreasonable and therefore violate the fans’ constitutional rights.
Fans won’t be searched at this weekend’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers game after an appeals court Friday lifted a temporary stay on an injunction that halted pat-downs at Raymond James Stadium. The Second District Court of Appeal lifted the stay after an emergency motion by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which filed a lawsuit Oct. 13 on behalf of Bucs season ticket-holder Gordon Johnston. He says the searches violate his constitutional rights because they were “invasive without necessity.”
ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon said they were “thrilled” with Friday’s decision. “The erosion of basic freedoms in this case is especially misguided because the search policy that the NFL is attempting to impose on every football fan in America is ineffective and designed only to create only the illusion of safety,” Simon said in a statement.
Circuit Judge Perry Little issued an injunction last week on the searches, but a stay was instituted automatically when the Tampa Sports Authority, which operates the stadium, filed an appeal Wednesday. The Tampa Sports Authority, which operates the stadium, approved the pat-downs in September after the NFL asked all teams to conduct them.
While I agree 100% that these searches are “invasive without necessity,” not to mention idiotic, it is unclear to me why the owner of a private facility could not make them a condition of entry into the premises. Perhaps there is something in the Florida Constitution that goes beyond the rights in the U.S. Constitution of which I’m unware.
What’s odd, though, is that the clearly unreasonable searches by Federal agents that we have to endure in order to board an airplane have not, to the best of my knowledge, been challenged, let alone ruled in violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against warrantless searches.