Supreme Court Watch: March Decisions
Max has already covered FAA v. Cooper in his Saturday article.
Here are a few more that may have escaped your notice.
Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington
In October, DC previewed Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington [New Jersey]. Albert Florence was stopped for a minor traffic offense but because of an administrative error, he was believed to have outstanding unpaid fines. As he was processed into the Florence County jail, he was strip-searched, as is routine for entering prisoners. He sued the Board of Freeholders (i.e. the county government) alleging a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In a 5–4 decision (Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor dissenting) on April 2, the Court held that Mr. Florence was treated properly, since the need to provide for security of the inmates and workers in prisons outweighs an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights. In other words, the search was deemed “reasonable” by the Court.
Zivotofsky v. Clinton
In November, I wrote up the argument preview in Zivotofsky v. Clinton (also known as MBZ v. Clinton). Congress passed a law in 2002 that stipulated Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. President George W. Bush signed the law (which was part of a much larger, “must-pass” bill) but issued a signing statement refusing to let the Executive enforce the law. President Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have similarly refused to follow the law. Menachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem in 2002, after the bill was passed and signed. His parents want “Jerusalem, Israel” on his passport, while the State Department wants to put simply, “Jerusalem”.
The Court sidestepped the geopolitical issues but gave them back to the lower Federal courts. By an 8–1 vote, the Court said lower Federal courts were competent to decide the specific political issue (the status of Jerusalem) created by the conflict between the Executive and Legislative, while refusing to say whether signing statements are a Constitutional exercise of Executive authority.
U.S. v. Jones
DC previewed U.S. v. Jones, in which a suspected drug dealer was tracked using a GPS mounted to his vehicle. The vote was complex, with different justices affirming or dissenting on different parts of the opinion. Overall, though, the Court decided that Jones’ Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.
While multiple media outlets have hailed the decision as an affirmation of a citizen’s privacy right to be free from police GPS tracking, Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog argues that they’ve got it wrong. According to Goldstein, the vote breaks down as follows (“government” argues that it’s not a search; “defendant” argues that it is a search and requires a warrant):
(i) installation is a search: government wins 9–0;
(ii) short-term monitoring alone using some technology is a search: government wins 8–1;
(iii) combination of installation and monitoring is a search: defendant wins 5–4;
(iv) long-term monitoring using some technology is a search: defendant wins with at least 5 votes, with the remaining Justices not addressing the issue.
In other words, Goldstein argues, only under the circumstances specific to this case was the installation of a GPS device on a vehicle a “search” subject to the Fourth Amendment requirement of a valid search warrant.
- Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Invasive Strip Searches | Common Dreams (2012indyinfo.com)
- Roberts’ Court disgraces itself one more time (atung.net)
- Negative Action
- Supreme Court Watch: Salinas v. Texas
- Supreme Court Watch: Maryland v. King
- Supreme Court Watch: McQuiggin v. Perkins
- Supreme Court Watch: Millbrook v. United States
- Supreme Court Watch: Missouri v. McNeely
- Supreme Court Watch: Fisher v. University of Texas
- Illegal ≠ Criminal
- The Hamdan’s Tale
- Unpacking the Court