October 1, 2009

Seth Rosenthal and Robert Wilkins quoted in stories on NAACP racial profiling case

2 min

On Tuesday, September 29, 2009, the full Maryland Court of Special Appeals, minus three judges who recused themselves, heard arguments in the long-running recial profiling dispute between the Maryland State Police and the NAACP.

Tuesday's arguments centered on documents relating to about 100 complaints of racial profiling by the Maryland State Police along I-95. 

According to the Daily Record article, the state police classified every one of the complaints as unsubstantiated. Counsel representing the Maryland State Police told the court that records from the internal investigations are exempt from disclosure under the Maryland Public Information Act. 

Venable litigation partner Seth Rosenthal, a lawyer for the NAACP, said the law's overriding goal of shedding light on possible wrongdoing supersedes the troopers' asserted privacy interest, especially since the officers' names would be redacted before disclosure. 

"If the state's position is correct, then the state could simply be throwing every single [racial profiling] complaint into the trash can and nobody would know," Rosenthal said.

Even if the documents sought are personnel records, Rosenthal argued, disclosure would still be appropriate because the "intense public concern" with preventing racial profiling outweighs the officers' asserted privacy interest. 

Robert Wilkins, Venable litigation partner and member of the NAACP's legal team, said black drivers have been found to be three to four times more likely to be pulled over than white drivers. 

"We still get data as recently as through 2008 and the disparity continues after years and years of litigation," Wilkins said.

Tuesday's arguments were also covered by the Baltimore Sun, NPR and Delmarvanow.com.