Constitutional Law

Lawyers say feds bugged grounds of three California courthouses without warrants

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Federal agents bugged the grounds of three California courthouses without warrants as they sought to gather evidence of claimed bid-rigging in mortgage foreclosure auctions, defense lawyers say.

Defense lawyers are seeking to have the evidence suppressed on constitutional grounds and argue that the warrantless surveillance also violated the rights of individuals at the courthouse who weren’t targets of any federal investigation, the East Bay Express reports.

Cameras and audio recording equipment were placed in Alameda County vehicles parked by the Oakland courthouse; in light fixtures by the courthouse steps; and in a bugged backpack left by a courthouse statue, according to a March letter (PDF) from a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer and a March briefing concerning a motion to suppress (PDF) in the case of real estate investor Michael Marr.

“The government’s unauthorized use of recording devices to capture private conversations at the Alameda and Contra Costa County courthouses violated defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures,” Marr’s lawyers write.

In addition, “Private affairs are routinely discussed as citizens, their lawyers, and even judges walk to and from court, and lawyers often take clients aside outside the courthouse for privileged conversation,” the filing notes.

The warrantless surveillance was conducted at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, Alameda County; the Contra Costa County courthouse in Martinez; and the San Mateo County courthouse in Redwood City, the article says.

Related coverage: “Feds secretly bugged courthouse grounds to eavesdrop on private conversations, motion says”

See also:

East Bay Express: “Oakland’s Biggest Landlord is Fighting For His Life in Federal Court”

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