Scott v. Harris - Oral Argument - February 26, 2007

Scott v. Harris

Media for Scott v. Harris

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 30, 2007 in Scott v. Harris

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 26, 2007 in Scott v. Harris

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument next in Case 05-1631, Scott versus Harris.

Mr. Savrin.

Philip W. Savrin:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

This case concerns whether a police officer could be held personally liable for using force to terminate a dangerous high-speed pursuit.

The undisputed facts show that Deputy Scott did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Respondent had led the police officers on a nine-mile pursuit at exceptionally high speeds.

As the videotapes that have been admitted in evidence show, Respondent was driving on narrow two-lane roads at night.

He swerved across the double line to pass cars that were in his path, actually traveling in the wrong lane of travel.

He ran through a number of red lights.

He weaved through a shopping center and collided with Deputy Scott's vehicle.

Deputy Scott at that point had tried to block the exit from the shopping center, but Mr. Harris was successful in using his vehicle to escape.

At that point, he continued driving at exceptionally high speeds.

John Paul Stevens:

Can I ask this question about the shopping center.

Wouldn't your case be exactly the same if the shopping center incident had not occurred?

Philip W. Savrin:

It would, Your Honor.

John Paul Stevens:

So that we really don't have to get distracted by the shopping center?

Philip W. Savrin:

There is a... yes, Your Honor.

There is a factual dispute as far as whether Deputy Scott's vehicle collided with Mr. Harris' vehicle or vice versa, but we do not believe that that is a material dispute.

We believe that the fact, the undisputed fact, that Mr. Harris was driving at such exceptionally high rate of speeds... and to put in context, 90 miles per hour, which is the average speed, and of course--

Stephen G. Breyer:

I'm not sure why you concede that.

I mean, I looked at the case and it seemed to me it's a case involving the whole ball of wax.

And I suspect my reaction to that tape was in part affected by the fact that he went through the shopping center, came out and crashed into a police car, which is what Scott saw.

Philip W. Savrin:

--But Scott... yes, Your Honor, I think that is part of the analysis.

Stephen G. Breyer:

So how do I know whether, which of these things is directly or not indirectly... well, you go ahead.

But I mean, are you... am I not supposed to look at the part which involves the shopping center?

Philip W. Savrin:

Absolutely, Your Honor.

My point was that, the point was that there was a collision, not who caused the collision, whether the deputy pulled into Mr. Harris' line of travel or Mr. Harris pulled towards the deputy.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Is the rule that you propose that the policeman must balance the risk of harm to others versus the risk of harm to the fleeing person?

Philip W. Savrin:

Your Honor... yes, essentially.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Your brief says that the officer reasonably believes that doing so, i.e., terminating the chase, would avoid a greater risk of bodily injury or death.