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Friday, August 04, 2006
Federal Court Continues to Bar Suspicionless Stadium Patdowns

On July 28, a federal district court refused to lift an injunction barring the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA), which owns the stadium in which the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers play. Greg discussed the issues raised by the case, filed by a schoolteacher, here; Mike followed up here. In his latest opinion in Johnston v. Tampa Sports Authority, 2006 WL 2136154 (D. Fla. 2006), Judge Whittemore explained:
The TSA has not established that its concern for public safety is based on a substantial and real risk which would justify a "special needs" exception to the well-established rule that suspicionless searches of one's person are per se unreasonable. Moreover, the TSA has not demonstrated that this case presents one of the very limited instances where the Plaintiff's privacy interest is minimal and the TSA's public safety interest would be jeopardized by prohibiting mass suspicionless pat-downs at the Stadium.
* * *
Defendants contend the "special needs" exception justifies mass suspicionless pat-downs of NFL patrons because of the need to protect patrons against potential terrorist attacks. One cannot seriously dispute the magnitude of the threat of terrorism to this country or the Government's interest in eradicating it. In this regard, the TSA's "special need" to prevent terrorist attacks is "substantial" . . . . Likewise, any reasonable person appreciates the potential harm that would result from a terrorist attack at the Stadium. However, the gravity of the threat cannot alone justify the intrusiveness of a suspicionless search of Plaintiff's person.
The Court concludes:
Particularly after September 11, 2001, Americans are justifiably more sensitive to the need to protect against acts of terrorism. Many Americans have become more tolerant of protective measures such as magnetometers, container searches and pat-downs, rationalizing that the inconvenience is worth the added protection. In fact, pat-downs may not bother the average Buccaneers fan. However, the constitutionality of mass suspicionless searches does not turn on popular opinion. A generalized fear of terrorism should not diminish the fundamental Fourth Amendment protections envisioned by our Founding Fathers. Our Constitution requires more.
It's worth noting that the TSA, as a municipal entity engaging in "state action," is subject to the constitutional prohibition on search and seizure; an entirely privately owned stadium would likely be able to pat down fans without such concern.



This decision by Federal District judge James D. Whittemore is a correct one without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

What "protections" would be available for those who would like to enter privately owned stadiums and venues?

Anonymous Richard Mock -- 8/05/2006 11:34 AM  

How hard is this decision to evade? Couldn't the Buccaneers either 1) obtain consent by notifying ticketholders before they purchase tickets that they will be searched or 2) change the provisions of their lease such that they can provide additional security of their own, which would eliminate the state action?

Anonymous PK -- 8/05/2006 12:32 PM  

Having worked with a team that played at that stadium, their security demands are the worst.

It is amazing the hoops that they make their fans and the visiting teams jump through.

I am glad to see this suit and the current decisions.

Blogger RWA -- 8/05/2006 8:03 PM  

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