ACLU of Iowa Statement on Bonilla & Brown

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
June 28, 2019 1:45 pm

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ACLU of Iowa
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Today the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Bonilla v. Iowa Board of Parole and State v. Scottize Brown.The first case, Bonilla v. Iowa Board of Parole, asked that juvenile offenders be given a meaningful opportunity to show their maturity and rehabilitation during the parole consideration process. We filed the original lawsuit back in Fall 2016.

The second case, State v. Scottize Brown, in which we had an amicus brief, asked the Court to find “pretext” traffic stops, which fuel racial profiling, as unconstitutional.

Below are statements on both decisions from Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa Legal Director.

Bonilla v. Iowa Board of Parole
“We are disappointed that the Court upheld existing parole procedures for juvenile offenders on a facial challenge. But we are pleased that the court affirmed that children are entitled to more than adults in parole proceedings. The Court recognized that the protections under the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions requiring a realistic and meaningful opportunity for release for juvenile offenders extend to parole proceedings. While the Court declined to find that juvenile offenders are always entitled to a right to appointed counsel in parole proceedings, it left open the possibility that appointed counsel may be required in specific cases. Today’s opinion provides important guidance to the parole board in meeting its obligations to afford a realistic and meaningful opportunity for release, and in it, we see a roadmap for future efforts at reforms. The fight is not over.

We were honored to be joined in our efforts by amici Juvenile Law Center, Juvenile Sentencing Project, Campaign for the Fair Sentencing for Youth.”

State v. Scottize Brown

“The decision in the Brown case is incredibly disheartening. Today’s opinion upheld the police use of pretext stops in Iowa, despite the fact that they are inherently dishonest and drive racial profiling. A pretext stop is when a police officer uses a common minor traffic violation as an after-the-fact pretext to pull over a driver, when the actual reason for the stop was constitutionally inadequate. As the dissent recognized, given the pervasiveness and sheer volume of traffic regulations, this decision gives police the ability to stop anyone. At any given time, most drivers are committing some minor technical infraction. This gives officers too much discretion in deciding who to stop, and who to let go about their day. That’s where problematic bias against Black people and other people of color comes into play. The time has come for police reforms. Today’s decision is a missed opportunity, and one that will only perpetuate racial disparities in policing in our state. We will not give up. Where the Court’s decision today failed to require these appropriate reforms in traffic stops, the legislature can, and should, act to do so, as can individual police chiefs, and city councils, county sheriffs and county boards of supervisors in Iowa who want to chart a better course in their communities to strengthen law enforcement effectiveness and credibility in the communities they serve.”

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