OCTOBER 05, 2012
In what could be a first, a Clinton-appointed federal judge in New York has cited a gangsta rapper’s profanity-laced song in an order siding with public housing residents suing the city over their arrests.
The case involves a New York City law that says only residents and their guests are allowed to be in or on the grounds of crime-infested public housing complexes. Trespassers can be arrested or detained by police and the measure has led to a reduction in crime, according to authorities.
But New York City Housing Authority tenants have complained that they or their guests have been illegally stopped, searched and arrested. Eighteen residents and visitors filed a lawsuit against the city two years ago seeking reforms and cash. Half settled for an undisclosed amount and the remaining nine have continued with their lawsuit. The city has fought to get it thrown out and the case sits before federal Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan.
This week Judge Scheindlin ruled in favor of the tenants, allowing the lawsuit against the city to go forward. Supporting her stance in the 84-page decision, the judge refers to a well-known black rapper (Jay-Z; real name Shawn Corey Carter) who grew up in New York public housing and, evidently, went on to record a song about his arrest for drug possession.
“In one of his most popular songs, the rapper Jay-Z – who grew up in NYCHA’s Marcy Houses in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn – showcased his knowledge of these Fourth Amendment rights,” Judge Scheindlin writes in a footnote of her order. The outrageous reference was discovered by an online publication dedicated to covering legal matters.
The song (“99 Problems”) the judge refers to is attached in a law-school paper that claims it’s the perfect tool to teach the Fourth Amendment. In it Jay-Z admits, in gangsta lingo, that he was transporting drugs in his car when he saw cops in his rearview mirror. The lyrics include strong profanity that can’t be published here. The law-school paper cited in Judge Scheindlin’s ruling refers to it as “Fourth Amendment Guidance for Cops and Perps.”
In 2002 Judge Scheindlin made headlines for ordering the release of a Jordanian national, Osama Awadallah, charged with lying to a grand jury about his close ties with two of the 9/11 terrorists. The FBI had evidence that Awadallah had met with at least one of the hijackers dozens of times, but Judge Scheindlin dismissed the charges, ruling that his arrest was unlawful and that the government exceeded its authority by detaining him as a material witness in the terrorism investigation.
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