In admitting that they have no expertise in running a corrections system, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that officers have unfettered authority to conduct full strip searches of any arrested individual, even for the most minor of offenses and in situations where officers lack any suspicion of contraband. The ruling comes days after the NY Times ran an analysis suggesting that the current supreme court is the most conservative court in modern history.
Today the Supreme Court in ruled 8-0 in FCC v. ATT that corporations have no "personal privacy" exemption under the Freedom of Information Act. The opinion ended the speculation that the Supreme Court would use this case to take yet another step towards equating corporations with actual people. For links to the various briefs, lower court decisions, and a summary of the underlying facts and opinion, visit the SCOTUSblog. [more inside]
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against a fourth amendment claim of a right against an employer search of texts on a work pager. The decision, City of Ontario v. Quon, rejected the claims, by the officer and by others who texted him on the device, that the employer city and the city's service provider violated their rights by reviewing transcripts of the text messages. Justice Kennedy's decision assumed the officer had a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, he said, the city’s search was not unduly intrusive. There was a “legitimate work-related purpose” for the audit, Justice Kennedy wrote. The city “had a legitimate interest in ensuring that employees were not being forced to pay out of their own pockets for work-related expenses, or on the other hand that the city was not paying for extensive personal communications.” Interestingly, the officer's direct supervisor had told him that he could use the pager for personal messages, as long as he paid their cost. Kennedy nonetheless opined for the Court that he likely only had a "limited privacy interest." The Court did not reach the question of whether there is an employee privacy interest in email on work servers, or conversations on work telephones.
In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that school officials violated an Arizona teenager's rights by strip-searching her for prescription-strength ibuprofen, declaring that U.S. educators cannot force children to remove their clothing unless student safety is at risk. Clarence Thomas demurred, suggesting that panties would become the new drug underground.
Newsfilter: Sex Clubs OK in Canada ruled the Supreme Court yesterday in a 7-2 decision that drastically alters the definition of indecency in this country. What will be the results of this far-reaching change? Will gay bathhouses and marijuana growing be affected? Will there be anti-social behaviour? "Now harm, rather than community standards, is the key yardstick that will be used to measure the point at which constitutional freedoms can be limited".
Dahlia Lithwick in Slate urges Democrats to grow a spine, and use the Alito hearings to provide the American public with some liberal talking points for a change. "If the Scalias, Thomases, Alitos, and Borks of the world had their way ... there would be no meaningful gun control. States could have official churches. Hard-fought federal worker, environmental, and civil rights protections would disintegrate. What you currently think of as the right to privacy would disappear. These are the questions Senate Democrats need to ask of Sam Alito: Should property rights trump individual rights? Should the right to privacy be interpreted as narrowly as the framers might have intended? Do you believe that a return to the morals and mores of two centuries ago is in the best interest of this nation?"
Hands where I can see them, and turn off that tape recorder! Today the Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a man for violating the commonwealth's electronic surveillance law when he secretly recorded police who pulled him over in a traffic stop. While it's generally bad to tape people without telling them, should there be an exception w/r/t to recording public officials acting in their official capacities? Or is wrong just wrong?
Finally, some good news on the privacy front The Supreme Court today reiterated the right of privacy in the age of technology, ruling in an Oregon drug case that the police cannot use a heat-seeking device to probe the interior of a home without a search warrant. (registration required) The heat device used by the agents "might disclose, for example, at what hour each night the lady of the house takes her daily sauna and bath — a detail that many would consider `intimate,' " the majority held. daily sauna?