Amicus Brief Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Apartment Dwellers’ Core Fourth Amendment Rights

Today we filed an amicus brief supporting a petition for certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court raising a question of the reach of core Fourth Amendment rights. In this Massachusetts case, Erich Sorenson was arrested without a warrant on the doorstep of his home in a multi-unit apartment building. If he lived in a detached single-family house and was arrested just outside his door on an open porch without a warrant, the arrest would have been unconstitutional because the porch is the curtilage of the home, given the same stringent protection against warrantless police intrusion as a house itself. But the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that a common hallway in an apartment building does not constitute curtilage. Sorenson asks the Supreme Court for review to clarify what can be considered apartment curtilage.

Along with the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University Law School and the NYU Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law, we submitted an amicus brief because the decision below further entrenches a longstanding split of authority across federal circuit courts and state high courts that erodes the constitutional rights of large swaths of U.S. residents. More particularly, the decision’s preventable and uneven effects disparately deny core Fourth Amendment protections to people of color, who are more likely to live in multi-unit dwellings and to be exposed to police contact because of decades-old patterns of racial discrimination—patterns with persistent modern effects. The brief was drafted in collaboration with a dedicated pro bono team from Wilmer Hale.

Read our brief:

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