What a difference a year makes

by Sal on June 16, 2006

in Politics

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) came out with a decision today in the case Hudson v. Michigan. This case was a classic fourth Amendment case. In it, the police violated the so-called “knock-and-announce” rule of the fourth amendment, which requires police to knock and wait for an answer when serving a search warrant unless “circumstances present a threat of physical violence,” or if there is “reason to believe that evidence would likely be destroyed if advance notice were given,” (see Justice Scalia’s Opinion). The original court threw out all the evidence obtained in the search because police knocked and waited only 3-5 seconds before entering, which the court stated was not sufficient to satisfy the rule. The Court of Appeals overturned the trial courts ruling, and today the U.S. Supreme court upheld the overturning by stating that throwing out all the evidence was not an appropriate remedy.

The court did not address the questions of the so-called “knock-and-announce” rule, but rather ruled that the throwing evidence out was too strong a remedy. The majority opinion was written by Scalia, and joined by Thomas, Roberts, and Alito, with Kennedy concurring in part. Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens dissented.

This case shows several important things about how the new court is constituted:

  • Alito and Roberts appear to be joining Thomas and Scalia with a common-sense approach to the law enforcement aspects of the Constitution.
  • The Roberts approach of narrowly deciding cases was upheld. Scalia could have addressed the fourth amendment issue of “knock-and-answer” in its entirety. He chose to not do so, since the State of Michigan conceded violation of this principle. He instead focused only on the remedy.
  • Kennedy is still the wildcard. We need one more reliable Originalist vote to truly return the court to its proper role.

News reports also say that O’Conner, who was involved in the initial hearing of the case, seemed to be leaning towards sympathy to the defendant. The case was re-heard after her retirement and the swearing in of Justice Alito. A year ago, this case may have gone the other way. What a difference.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ryan June 16, 2006 at 8:06 pm

Thank God we dodged a bullet with O’Connor retiring. Stevens is gettin gup there too isn’t he?

Anyway, I think that Roberts and Alito joining the good side here is great and bodes well for future decisions from this court.


Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post: