First and Fourth Amendments add up to $8,000 for professor


Let it be known that in America, personal liberty is not dead yet.

With a little help from the Constitution, University of Washington art professor Shirley Scheier and U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour delivered that pleasing message to three heavy handed law officers.

According to a detailed report from The Seattle Times, the incident involved photographs which the professor took of some overhead power lines. She took the photos from public property for her own artistic use.

There are no explicit restrictions against photographing her chosen subject. However, after leaving the area, Professor Shirley Scheier, of the University of Washington, was detained by police officers who "questioned her vigorously about the photos she had taken, searched her car, handcuffed her and treated her "roughly."

In a Homeland Security sense, perhaps the officers were justified in their concerns. In a tactical sense, the officers could only implement their training and departmental guidelines.

In a constitutional sense however, to make an arrest and execute a search without warrant, which is what the officers did, they are still required to have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. That truth netted our story's hero $8,000.

American civil liberties are still kicking butt -- for now.