Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Welcome, Sarah Seo! / Seo, "Policing the Open Road"

We are delighted to welcome Professor Sarah Seo to the blog for the month of May. She is currently Associate Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law and a visiting professor at Columbia Law School.

She is the author of Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom, out just this month from Harvard University Press. Here's a description from the Press:
Sarah Seo (credit)
When Americans think of freedom, they often picture the open road. Yet nowhere are we more likely to encounter the long arm of the law than in our cars. Sarah Seo reveals how the rise of the automobile led us to accept—and expect—pervasive police power. As Policing the Open Road makes clear, this radical transformation in the nature and meaning of American freedom has had far-reaching political and legal consequences. 
Before the twentieth century, most Americans rarely came into contact with police officers. But with more and more drivers behind the wheel, police departments rapidly expanded their forces and increased officers’ authority to stop citizens who violated traffic laws. The Fourth Amendment—the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures—did not effectively shield individuals from government intrusion while driving. Instead, jurists interpreted the amendment narrowly. In a society dependent on cars, everyone—the law-breaking and law-abiding alike—would be subject to discretionary policing. 
Seo overturns prevailing interpretations of the Warren Court’s due process revolution. The justices’ efforts to protect Americans did more to accommodate than to limit police intervention, and the new criminal procedures inadvertently sanctioned discrimination by officers of the law. Constitutional challenges to traffic stops largely failed, and motorists “driving while black” had little recourse to question police demands. Seo shows how procedures designed to safeguard us on the road ultimately undermined the nation’s commitment to equal protection before the law.
In advance praise, Bernard Harcourt describes Policing the Open Road as "a brilliant and groundbreaking book that will fundamentally reshape the way we think about the police, criminal procedure, and American freedom."

Professor Seo is also the author of numerous essays and articles, including one out just this year from the Yale Law Journal: "Democratic Policing Before the Due Process Revolution." Her work has also appeared in the Law and History Review and Law & Social Inquiry, among other venues.

Prior to joining the faculty at Iowa, Professor Seo held legal history fellowships at New York University School of Law and the University of Virginia Law School. She also clerked for two federal court judges: Judge Denny Chin, then of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and Judge Reena Raggi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She received her Ph.D. in History from Princeton University and her J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Welcome, Sarah Seo!

-- Karen Tani