Patterico's Pontifications

4/22/2014

A Question From Today’s Fourth Amendment Supreme Court Opinion

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:52 pm

Here is an odd passage in Justice Scalia’s dissent today from the opinion (.pdf) allowing a stop based on a (functionally) anonymous call saying a specific vehicle had run the caller off the road. The issue was whether this (functionally) anonymous call provided reasonable cause for the stop. Here is what Justice Scalia says:

The tipster said the truck had “[run her] off the road­ way,” id., at 36a, but the police had no reason to credit that charge and many reasons to doubt it, beginning with the peculiar fact that the accusation was anonymous. “[E]liminating accountability … is ordinarily the very purpose of anonymity.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U. S. 334, 385 (1995) (SCALIA, J., dissenting). The unnamed tipster “can lie with impunity,” J. L., supra, at 275 (KENNEDY, J., concurring). Anonymity is especially suspicious with respect to the call that is the subject of the present case. When does a victim complain to the police about an arguably criminal act (running the victim off the road) without giving his identity, so that he can accuse and testify when the culprit is caught?

Hmmmmmm. Verrrry suspicious. Verrry verrrry suspicious.

Oh: and also, untrue. From Justice Thomas’s opinion:

At the suppression hearing, counsel for petitioners did not dispute that the reporting party identified herself by name in the 911 call recording. Because neither the caller nor the Humboldt County dis­patcher who received the call was present at the hearing, however, the prosecution did not introduce the recording into evidence. The prosecu­tion proceeded to treat the tip as anonymous, and the lower courts followed suit. See 2012 WL 4842651, *6 (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 12, 2012).

You can “treat” it as anonymous, I suppose, but it wasn’t. Therefore, to argue that the tip is suspicious because the caller oddly refused to give her name seems like a bad argument when . . . the caller did give her name.

How did Scalia miss this? It fairly screams out at the reader.

I realize they are setting rules for other cases, and the holding applies to actually anonymous calls — but that does not justify treating this call as suspicious for the caller’s failure to do something that the caller actually did. Just explain it and explain the rule.

P.S. The rest of Scalia’s opinion is pretty well written.

Breaking Reports: Supreme Court Upholds Michigan Ban on Affirmative Action

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:24 am

It’s little more than one-line breaking reports right now:

Supreme Court upholds Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions.

I’m about to leave for work, but here’s your thread to discuss the case as the details are fleshed out.

UPDATE: Opinion here (.pdf).

UPDATE x2: If an opinion makes hash of the law; if it refuses to overrule clearly bad precedents; if it seeks to harmonize irreconcilable positions with high-minded and impossible-to-understand verbiage . . . then it was written by Justice Kennedy.

I concur, as does Justice Thomas in this case, with Justice Scalia.

Is Conor Friedersdorf Calling for the Impeachment of Barack Obama?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:22 am

Conor Friedersdorf:

In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent a civilian aircraft* over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality.

Compton residents weren’t told about the spying, which happened in 2012. “We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting, which unearthed and did the first reporting on this important story. The technology he’s trying to sell to police departments all over America can stay aloft for up to six hours. Like Google Earth, it enables police to zoom in on certain areas. And like TiVo, it permits them to rewind, so that they can look back and see what happened anywhere they weren’t watching in real time.

Friedersdorf says: that’s a firing.

Sgt. Douglas Iketani acknowledges that his agency hid the experiment to avoid public opposition. “This system was kind of kept confidential from everybody in the public,”he said. “A lot of people do have a problem with the eye in the sky, the Big Brother, so to mitigate those kinds of complaints we basically kept it pretty hush hush.” That attitude ought to get a public employee summarily terminated.

Summarily terminated, you say? OK. Let’s work with that logic for a moment.

There is undoubtedly some loss of privacy when a camera is able to record and play back all of your public movements. I think there’s a greater loss of privacy when the federal government can read my email. After all, a person’s movements in public are still public. You can be surveilled while you’re in public. While one does not expect to have all those movements tracked by technology, one still recognizes that the actions are public. By contrast, most people still think of their email as private.

But a lot of people do have a problem with their email being read — the Big Brother thing, you know — so to mitigate those kind of complaints, Barack Obama basically kept it pretty hush hush.

Should that get Obama summarily terminated?

Is Friedersdorf calling for the impeachment of Barack Obama?


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