W.D.Mo.: How one USDJ views R&Rs in a 4A case; also, using social worker entry as pretext wasn’t unreasonable

“It may be worth commenting that the deputies may have subjectively used the social worker visit to pursue their interest in the reported firearm and drug violations — to the extent possible — just as traffic violations are often used by law enforcement to gain information about possible law violations. Defendant does not develop any ground for further review of subjective intentions.” United States v. Alloway, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 220348 (W.D. Mo. Dec. 23, 2019): How one USDJ views R&Rs in a Fourth Amendment case:

After study of the transcripts, exhibits and briefing, I will adopt the Report and Recommendation and deny the motions to suppress.

One factor favoring acceptance of the deputy’s version is that it was written down when memory was fresh, shortly after the visitation on April 1, 2018. Def. Exh. 2. As a formal report, later used to obtain a search warrant, the deputy must have realized he had a professional responsibility to carefully and accurately record his recollection, with some risk of professional harm if he made material errors or fabricated. There were four or five potential witnesses regarding the location of the firearms who might challenge errors or fabrication, including the children and the social worker. While dishonest stories can be concocted to convict suspects, and correction may be considered improbable, my supposition is that official reports are most likely honestly composed and are generally reasonably accurate. Contrary self-serving testimony is inherently somewhat less believable. Moreover, the Magistrate Judge had the best opportunity for evaluating credibility. I acknowledge that I am somewhat influenced by that circumstance and somewhat reliant on Judge Maughmer’s views in reaching my own conclusions. As Judge Kopf has explained, such reliance is appropriate and occurs quite generally. United States v. McCain, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181025, 2017 WL 4990536 (D.Neb.).

The Court of Appeals has warned, however, that district judges must not abdicate responsibility to the extent of adopting the recommendations of Magistrate Judges unless “clearly erroneous.” United States v. Lothridge, 324 F.3d 599 (8th Cir. 2003). But McCain shows that statutory and judicial references to de novo review can be semantically misleading and do not require disregard of views reached by the hearing officer. The basic intent is that district judges take individual responsibility for their factual rulings, even while considering the views and expertise of experienced and reliable professionals who have heard and observed the witnesses. Artificial limits on review, as expressed below in the Lothridge case, are improper. The concurring opinion of Justice Blackmun in United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 684, 100 S. Ct. 2406, 65 L. Ed. 2d 424 (1980) dispels any notion that de novo review should result in total disregard of the views of Magistrate Judges. In any event, I am satisfied that McCain reflects the litigation world as practiced.

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