Thoughts on Vega v. Tekoh, the Pending Miranda Case Before SCOTUS: The Precedent Question

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in next week Vega v. Tekoh, a case about Miranda rights.  A super-interesting historical historian was flagged in my amicus brief last week. I want to add some more thoughts.  In a series of posts, I will try to distill my thoughts.  Here’s the first question I want to answer. TekohAs a matter precedent.  Which way will the Court’s cases lead you if you are serious about them?

From my earlier post you’ll remember that I am referring to the case in which a plaintiff seeks a civil remedy from an officer under 42 U.S.C. 1983 in order to get a statement not admissible under MirandaThat was eventually admitted.  Two issues are raised by the case.  In such cases, can a civil remedy be available? If this occurs, then who is liable?

This post will explain why I believe that the Ninth Circuit was correct as a matter precedent.  The Court has held that the wrong admission of any statement is a violation of MirandaA violation of a person’s Fifth Amendment rights should result in a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983.  In the future, I plan to address other aspects, like the cause question.

Now, let’s move on to the analysis. It seems that, as a rule of thumb, the first question is answered clearly. provided correctly in Judge Eric Miller’s typically excellent opinionFor the Ninth Circuit, see below.  This is the logical chain:

  1. Chavez v. MartinezIts various opinions indicate that it is the MirandaA statement that is incorrectly admitted is a violation Miranda‘s rules;
  2. Dickerson v. United StatesThis is the truth MirandaIt is a constitution rule and not a supervision decision.
  3. 42 U.S.C. 43 U.S.C.

Take these three steps and you will have a legal cause for action regarding wrongful admissions of statements.

As the officer’s arguments are clear, and especially the recently-filed brief response, I believe the principal counterpoint is to contest point 2. MirandaIs a Constitutional Rule. Well, at least it is sorta.  VegaTreats MirandaAs a constitutional decision, but not part of it. MirandaIt is a constitution decision in the sense of that DickersonIt was. And it still applies in DickersonThe motion was to suppress. However MirandaThis isn’t part of the Constitution at all, other than the fact that the officer believes there are many decisions to be made, particularly pre-DickersonCalling Miranda “prophylactic.”

Vega considers a “prophylactic rule” a rule that doesn’t exist in the constitution. It is different from a constitutional rule to safeguard the underlying constitutional rights. According to Vega’s account, this leaves you with MirandaIt is both a Constitutional decision and a part of the constitution. MirandaEnds up being a rule for evidence for constitutional purposes but is not something that could support a civil lawsuit for constitutional purposes.

This to me seems quite odd.  It’s constitutional law as quantum physics: MirandaIt becomes light which can be both a wave or a particle.  Yes, that’s the subtext.  The Supreme Court would have ruled otherwise. Dickerson A majority of current Court members could have said the opposite. MirandaIt was only a case of supervisory powers that could be nullified through legislation.  A tactical argument might not make sense. MirandaHowever, if you are on solid ground then a strange argument that restricts it might be more attractive than an argument that doesn’t.  So that’s it.

However, as a matter precedent, I believe that it is. Dickerson“Said what Dickerson said. You don’t want to reverse the decision. DickersonVega does not ask for the Court to consider it. You must still treat it the same as it stated it to be.  It seems that it is. DickersonVega rejected the underlying assumptions of his argument. A lot of what Vega is arguing has been settled by the other side. Dickerson.

Vega shows a very different image.  Vega tries to make post-MirandaCaselaw can be inconsistent with the natural meaning of Dickerson.  Vega, for example, suggests that the Court be treated MirAnda as “prophylactic” even after Dickerson in cases like Chavez and Patane. It is not right for me to suggest that Court should be treated as “prophylactic” – I’m leaving aside the discussion about what “prophylactic” actually means. MirandaRules that are not part of the Fifth Amendment Dickerson.

This is what I believe happened.  Here are the details DickersonJustices Thomas, Scalia and the Dickerson dissidents, wrote on. Mirandaopinions that use the basic framing Dickerson dissent.  Five votes were cast in some cases for Justices Thomas or Scalia’s final results.  Chief Justice Rehnquist probably assigned Justice Thomas the task of writing the majority opinion for those cases.  Justice Thomas did not get the majority.  In the end, he managed to get a plurality of opinions in PataneRehnquist joined Scalia in the midst of a Court decision. ChavezRehnquist was the only person who joined together in pertinent parts.

Vega’s brief reply relies heavily on these Thomas opinions.  These Thomas opinions get treated like authoritative guides to understanding the real meaning. DickersonThis is the real meaning of Miranda.  However, I believe they are just three Justices’ views that don’t represent a majority on the Court’s Court of Justices.

Vega responds in a brief response to Vega. He suggests that it is possible that Chief Justice Rehnquist signed these opinions posthumously.DickersonIt is significant because Thomas and Justice Scalia dissented. DickersonChief Justice Rehnquist wrote The Dickerson Majority opinion. “Any doubt about what the Court meant Dickerson is resolved,” Vega says, “by how its author—Chief Justice Rehnquist—subsequently treated Miranda in Chavez.” You can join the opinion ChavezThat’s it! MirandaVega claims that it was preventative. Rehnquist, however, must have indicated the true meaning DickersonTekoh’s interpretation cannot be taken as a credit Dickerson“Over Chief Justice Rehnquist’s.”

C’mon. The majority opinions of the Supreme Court do not belong to their authors.  Their meanings are not hidden by the words or signatures of their individual authors. They must be able to stand by their opinions.  It is particularly important in this instance, as claims have been made to Chief Justice Rehnquist that he didn’t mean what he stated. Dickerson.  That accusation may be true, but I’m not sure.  However, it doesn’t matter if that accusation is true or not. Rehnquist can’t undo the Court’s Opinion he wrote in his later actions. Dickersonactually meant or said.  It seems that Dickerson was able to answer the first question about precedent if you consider precedent serious. TekohIn Tekoh’s favor.

Disclosure: This case was discussed with Tekoh’s counsel, but all opinions expressed here are my own.