Monthly Archives: July 2017

Reno v. Condon: Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 (12/12/2000)

Reno v. Condon

Does the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 violate the constitutional principles of federalism?

Argued: 11/10/1999

Decision Date: 12/12/2000

Decision Record: 9-0; no

Justices Majority: William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer

Justices Dissenting: None

For Reno

Effect of the Decision

The court ruled Congress had the right to enact the DPPA under the Commerce Clause.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of Reno, attorney Seth P. Waxman argued, “We live in an age in which data bases of personal information are widely used in the national economy.

They are bought and sold, and they’re critical to national marketing, yet their dissemination threatens personal privacy and sometimes safety.

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act is one of a series of laws in which Congress has balanced the benefits to commerce of disseminating personal information against the costs of that dissemination to personal security.

Beginning with the Privacy Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act in the early 1970’s, up until the Financial Services Act that was enacted just last week, Congress has acted on a sector by sector basis as new uses of personal data and new threats emerge.

In this case, Congress heard testimony that, while motor vehicle data bases are of particular value in commerce, their dissemination poses unique risks to personal safety and privacy.

Once disseminated, motor vehicle data bases are things in commerce, just as surely as are data bases that belong to financial institutions, cable operators, health care providers, and Congress may therefore regulate a State’s discharge of data into the national economy just as it restricts a State discharge of pollutants or other State activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, like operating airports, or issuing municipal bonds.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Condon, Charles Condon argued, “We are for protecting privacy, and this case is not about preventing the horrible crime of stalking.

We’re against stalking.

The issue in this case is whether thousands of State officials across the country can be pressed into Federal service by the Congress to administer a Federal regulatory act.

I think if I could answer Justice Kennedy’s question, which I think goes to the heart of this case, the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act is complex, it’s burdensome, it has all these exceptions, 14 exceptions, and it applies only to the States of the United States, and to follow this Federal mandate, which is unfunded, by the way, State officials must first look at it, interpret it, and then apply it to this…”

Justices:

The decision of this case was unanimous. Justice William Rehnquist wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “We agree with South Carolina’s assertion that the DPPA’s provisions will require time and effort on the part of state employees, but reject the State’s argument that the DPPA violates the principles laid down in either New York or Printz. We think, instead, that this case is governed by our decision in South Carolina v. Baker485 U.S. 505 (1988). In Baker, we upheld a statute that prohibited States from issuing unregistered bonds because the law “regulate[d] state activities,” rather than “seek[ing] to control or influence the manner in which States regulate private parties.” Id., at 514—515. We further noted:

“The NGA [National Governor’s Association] nonetheless contends that §310 has commandeered the state legislative and administrative process because many state legislatures had to amend a substantial number of statutes in order to issue bonds in registered form and because state officials had to devote substantial effort to determine how best to implement a registered bond system. Such ‘commandeering’ is, however, an inevitable consequence of regulating a state activity. Any federal regulation demands compliance. That a State wishing to engage in certain activity must take administrative and sometimes legislative action to comply with federal standards regulating that activity is a commonplace that presents no constitutional defect.” Ibid.

    Like the statute at issue in Baker, the DPPA does not require the States in their sovereign capacity to regulate their own citizens. The DPPA regulates the States as the owners of databases. It does not require the South Carolina Legislature to enact any laws or regulations, and it does not require state officials to assist in the enforcement of federal statutes regulating private individuals. We accordingly conclude that the DPPA is consistent with the constitutional principles enunciated in New York and Printz.

    As a final matter, we turn to South Carolina’s argument that the DPPA is unconstitutional because it regulates the States exclusively. The essence of South Carolina’s argument is that Congress may only regulate the States by means of “generally applicable” laws, or laws that apply to individuals as well as States. But we need not address the question whether general applicability is a constitutional requirement for federal regulation of the States, because the DPPA is generally applicable. The DPPA regulates the universe of entities that participate as suppliers to the market for motor vehicle information–the States as initial suppliers of the information in interstate commerce and private resellers or redisclosers of that information in commerce.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the rest of the court. Congress had full right to implement the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. This act protects the privacy of the citizens and keeps states from legally being able to sell information. It doesn’t violate the Tenth or Eleventh Amendments. The Commerce Clause gives Congress permission to enforce acts such as the DPPA.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States: Title II 1964 Civil Rights Act; Motel Racial Discrimination (12/14/1964)

Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States

Did Congress, in passing Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, exceed its Commerce Clause powers by depriving motels, such as the Heart of Atlanta, of the right to choose their own customers?

Argued: 10/05/1964

Decision Date: 12/14/1964

Decision Record: 9-0; no

Justice Majority: Earl Warren, Hugo Black, William Douglas, Tom Clark, John Harlan, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Byron White, Arthur Goldberg

Justices Dissenting: None

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that Congress has the right to deprive motels of the right to choose their own customers.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the Heart of Atlanta Motel, attorney Moreton Rolleston, Jr. argued, “This is an appeal from a final judgment in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, which was heard before a three-judge court.

On a complaint filed by the appellant herein, he was a plaintiff below, seeking to declare the Civil Rights Act of 1964 un-constitutional and seeking a permanent injunction against the United States and the Attorney General of the United States at that time, Mr. Kennedy, from enforcing that Act against the appellant.

The government filed not only an answer for the counterclaim, and in the counterclaim, asked for an injunction out of provisions for the Civil Rights Act against the appellant.

The case was heard and decision rendered on the counterclaim of the government and the permanent injunction was granted against the appellant and any officers or agents set forth.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of the United States, attorney Archibald Cox argued, “The fact that the Court is sitting to here — argument on the day that usually bogged only an opening ceremony or occasion, testifies more forcibly that any words in mind can do, to the importance of the issues being presented today.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 is surely the most important legislation enacted in recent decades.

It’s one of the half-dozen most important clauses, I think.

An Act didn’t last century.

No legislation within my memory has been debated as widely as long or as thorough.

Certainly none has been considered more conscientious.”

Justices:

The opinion in this case was unanimous. Justice Tom Clark wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “We therefore conclude that the action of the Congress in the adoption of the Act as applied here to a motel which concededly serves interstate travelers is within the power granted it by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, as interpreted by this Court for 140 years. It may be argued that Congress could have pursued other methods to eliminate the obstructions it found in interstate commerce caused by racial discrimination. But this is a matter of policy that rests entirely with the Congress, not with the courts. How obstructions in commerce may be removed — what means are to be employed — is within the sound and exclusive discretion of the Congress. It is subject only to one caveat — that the means chosen by it must be reasonably adapted to the end permitted by the Constitution. We cannot say that its choice here was not so adapted. The Constitution requires no more.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the court decision. Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 clearly forbade racial discrimination in public places having to do with commerce. The Heart of Atlanta Motel refusing to accept African Americans directly violates that act. There shouldn’t be any argument. I believe that the “right” to decide who to accept is far less important than the African Americans that want to stay at the motel.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

Illinois v. Warlow: Flight from Police Officer and High Crime Area; Reasonable Suspicion (01/12/2000)

Illinois v. Wardlow

Is a person’s sudden and unprovoked flight from identifiable police officers, patrolling an area high in crime, sufficiently suspicious to justify the officers stopping  that person?

Argued: 11/02/1999

Decision Date: 01/12/2000

Decision Record: 5-4; yes

Justices in Favor: William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas

Justices Dissenting: John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that the nervous attitude of the person fleeing the high crime area was enough suspicion for the police officers to stop and search him.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the state of Illinois, attorney Richard A. Devine argued, “On September 9th, 1995, when William Wardlow looked at Officer Nolan and took flight, the officer had reason to believe that there was a problem.

He pursued and stopped Wardlow to investigate and discovered a loaded gun in his possession.

The three key factors in this brief statement are flight from a clearly identified police officer without provocation.

These factors provided reasonable suspicion supporting a Terry stop.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Wardlow, attorney Malcolm L. Stewart argued, “It’s certainly true, as respondent and his amici point out, that individuals may, on some occasions, have innocent motives for fleeing the police.

But the purpose of a Terry stop is not to apprehend individuals who are known to be guilty of criminal offenses; rather, it’s to provide a means by which police may resolve ambiguities in situations where they have reasonable… reason to suspect criminal activity, but lack probable cause to make an arrest.

And in our view, flight from identifiable police officers will ordinarily correlate sufficiently with likely involvement in criminal activity.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “Respondent and amici also argue that there are innocent reasons for flight from police and that, therefore, flight is not necessarily indicative of ongoing criminal activity. This fact is undoubtedly true, but does not establish a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Even in Terry, the conduct justifying the stop was ambiguous and susceptible of an innocent explanation. The officer observed two individuals pacing back and forth in front of a store, peering into the window and periodically conferring. Terry, 392 U.S., at 5—6. All of this conduct was by itself lawful, but it also suggested that the individuals were casing the store for a planned robbery. Terryrecognized that the officers could detain the individuals to resolve the ambiguity. Id., at 30.

    In allowing such detentions, Terry accepts the risk that officers may stop innocent people. Indeed, the Fourth Amendment accepts that risk in connection with more drastic police action; persons arrested and detained on probable cause to believe they have committed a crime may turn out to be innocent. The Terrystop is a far more minimal intrusion, simply allowing the officer to briefly investigate further. If the officer does not learn facts rising to the level of probable cause, the individual must be allowed to go on his way. But in this case the officers found respondent in possession of a handgun, and arrested him for violation of an Illinois firearms statute. No question of the propriety of the arrest itself is before us.”

In opposition, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “The State, along with the majority of the Court, relies as well on the assumption that this flight occurred in a high crime area. Even if that assumption is accurate, it is insufficient because even in a high crime neighborhood unprovoked flight does not invariably lead to reasonable suspicion. On the contrary, because many factors providing innocent motivations for unprovoked flight are concentrated in high crime areas, the character of the neighborhood arguably makes an inference of guilt less appropriate, rather than more so. Like unprovoked flight itself, presence in a high crime neighborhood is a fact too generic and susceptible to innocent explanation to satisfy the reasonable suspicion inquiry. See Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 52 (1979); see also n. 15, supra.

    It is the State’s burden to articulate facts sufficient to support reasonable suspicion. Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 52 (1979); see also Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500 (1983) (plurality opinion). In my judgment, Illinois has failed to discharge that burden. I am not persuaded that the mere fact that someone standing on a sidewalk looked in the direction of a passing car before starting to run is sufficient to justify a forcible stop and frisk.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority opinion. Wardlow fled an area with identifiable police officers around and high crime. It’s no wonder the police stopped him. By running from an area such as Chicago, that’s definitely enough reason for a police officer to stop him. It indicates fear and anxiousness. And that evidently leads to people thinking you may have done something bad or are planning to do something unacceptable by the police. This justifies and provides reasonable suspicion for the police officers to search Wardlow. This was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

Grutter v. Bollinger: Race Consideration in College Admissions (05/23/2003)

Grutter v. Bollinger

Does the University of Michigan Law School’s use of racial preferences in student admissions infringe upon the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Argued: 04/01/2003

Decision Date: 05/23/2003

Decision Record: 5-4; no

Justices in Favor: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Stephen Breyer

Justices Dissenting: William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that the use of a student’s race is permitted when deciding the admission of college students.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of Grutter, attorney Kirk O. Kolbo argued, “Barbara Grutter applied for admission to the University of Michigan Law School with a personal right guaranteed by the Constitution that she would not have her race counted against her.

That race… that the application would be considered for free from the taint of racial discrimination.

The law school intentionally disregarded that right by discriminating against her on the basis of race as it does each year in the case of thousands of individuals who apply for admission.

The law school defends its practice of race discrimination as necessary to achieve a diverse student body.

With the loss… with the diversity that the law school is committed to ensuring and meaningful numbers or critical mass, is of a narrow kind defined exclusively by race and ethnicity.

The constitutional promise of equality would not be necessary in a society composed of a single homogenous mass.

It is precisely because we are a nation teeming with different races and ethnicities… one that is increasingly interracial, multiracial, that it is so crucial for our Government to honor its solemn obligation to treat all members of our society equally without preferring some individuals over others.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Earls, attorney Theodore B. Olson argued, “The Michigan law school admissions program fails every test this Court has articulated for evaluating governmental racial preferences.

We respect the opinions of those individuals, but the position of the United States is that we do not accept the proposition that black soldiers will only fight for… black officers or the reverse that race neutral means should be used in the academies as well as other places.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the opinion for the court. She wrote, “In summary, the Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit the Law School’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body. Consequently, petitioner’s statutory claims based on Title VI and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 also fail. See Bakke, supra, at 287 (opinion of Powell, J.) (“Title VI … proscribe[s] only those racial classifications that would violate the Equal Protection Clause or the Fifth Amendment”); General Building Contractors Assn., Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 458 U.S. 375, 389—391 (1982) (the prohibition against discrimination in §1981 is co-extensive with the Equal Protection Clause). The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, accordingly, is affirmed.”

In opposition, Justice William Rehnquist wrote, “Finally, I believe that the Law School’s program fails strict scrutiny because it is devoid of any reasonably precise time limit on the Law School’s use of race in admissions. We have emphasized that we will consider “the planned duration of the remedy” in determining whether a race-conscious program is constitutional.Fullilove, 448 U.S., at 510 (Powell, J. concurring); see also United States v. Paradise480 U.S. 149, 171 (1987) (“In determining whether race-conscious remedies are appropriate, we look to several factors, including the … duration of the relief ”). Our previous cases have required some limit on the duration of programs such as this because discrimination on the basis of race is invidious.

    The Court suggests a possible 25-year limitation on the Law School’s current program. See ante, at 30. Respondents, on the other hand, remain more ambiguous, explaining that “the Law School of course recognizes that race-conscious programs must have reasonable durational limits, and the Sixth Circuit properly found such a limit in the Law School’s resolve to cease considering race when genuine race-neutral alternatives become available.” Brief for Respondents Bollinger et al. 32. These discussions of a time limit are the vaguest of assurances. In truth, they permit the Law School’s use of racial preferences on a seemingly permanent basis. Thus, an important component of strict scrutiny–that a program be limited in time–is casually subverted.

    The Court, in an unprecedented display of deference under our strict scrutiny analysis, upholds the Law School’s program despite its obvious flaws. We have said that when it comes to the use of race, the connection between the ends and the means used to attain them must be precise. But here the flaw is deeper than that; it is not merely a question of “fit” between ends and means. Here the means actually used are forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.”

Also disagreeing with the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “It is regrettable the Court’s important holding allowing racial minorities to have their special circumstances considered in order to improve their educational opportunities is accompanied by a suspension of the strict scrutiny which was the predicate of allowing race to be considered in the first place. If the Court abdicates its constitutional duty to give strict scrutiny to the use of race in university admissions, it negates my authority to approve the use of race in pursuit of student diversity. The Constitution cannot confer the right to classify on the basis of race even in this special context absent searching judicial review. For these reasons, though I reiterate my approval of giving appropriate consideration to race in this one context, I must dissent in the present case.”
In a separate opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Unlike a clear constitutional holding that racial preferences in state educational institutions are impermissible, or even a clear anticonstitutional holding that racial preferences in state educational institutions are OK, today’s GrutterGratz split double header seems perversely designed to prolong the controversy and the litigation. Some future lawsuits will presumably focus on whether the discriminatory scheme in question contains enough evaluation of the applicant “as an individual,” ante, at 24, and sufficiently avoids “separate admissions tracks” ante, at 22, to fall under Grutter rather than Gratz. Some will focus on whether a university has gone beyond the bounds of a “ ‘good faith effort’ ” and has so zealously pursued its “critical mass” as to make it an unconstitutional de facto quota system, rather than merely “ ‘a permissible goal.’ ” Ante, at 23 (quoting Sheet Metal Workers v. EEOC, 478 U. S 421, 495 (1986) (O’Connor, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)). Other lawsuits may focus on whether, in the particular setting at issue, any educational benefits flow from racial diversity. (That issue was not contested in Grutter; and while the opinion accords “a degree of deference to a university’s academic decisions,” ante, at 16, “deference does not imply abandonment or abdication of judicial review,” Miller-El v. Cockrell537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003).) Still other suits may challenge the bona fides of the institution’s expressed commitment to the educational benefits of diversity that immunize the discriminatory scheme in Grutter. (Tempting targets, one would suppose, will be those universities that talk the talk of multiculturalism and racial diversity in the courts but walk the walk of tribalism and racial segregation on their campuses–through minority-only student organizations, separate minority housing opportunities, separate minority student centers, even separate minority-only graduation ceremonies.) And still other suits may claim that the institution’s racial preferences have gone below or above the mystical Grutter-approved “critical mass.” Finally, litigation can be expected on behalf of minority groups intentionally short changed in the institution’s composition of its generic minority “critical mass.” I do not look forward to any of these cases.”
Also writing his own opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “Indeed, the very existence of racial discrimination of the type practiced by the Law School may impede the narrowing of the LSAT testing gap. An applicant’s LSAT score can improve dramatically with preparation, but such preparation is a cost, and there must be sufficient benefits attached to an improved score to justify additional study. Whites scoring between 163 and 167 on the LSAT are routinely rejected by the Law School, and thus whites aspiring to admission at the Law School have every incentive to improve their score to levels above that range. See App. 199 (showing that in 2000, 209 out of 422 white applicants were rejected in this scoring range). Blacks, on the other hand, are nearly guaranteed admission if they score above 155. Id., at 198 (showing that 63 out of 77 black applicants are accepted with LSAT scores above 155). As admission prospects approach certainty, there is no incentive for the black applicant to continue to prepare for the LSAT once he is reasonably assured of achieving the requisite score. It is far from certain that the LSAT test-taker’s behavior is responsive to the Law School’s admissions policies.16 Nevertheless, the possibility remains that this racial discrimination will help fulfill the bigot’s prophecy about black underperformance–just as it confirms the conspiracy theorist’s belief that “institutional racism” is at fault for every racial disparity in our society.

    I therefore can understand the imposition of a 25-year time limit only as a holding that the deference the Court pays to the Law School’s educational judgments and refusal to change its admissions policies will itself expire. At that point these policies will clearly have failed to “ ‘eliminat[e] the [perceived] need for any racial or ethnic’ ” discrimination because the academic credentials gap will still be there. Ante, at 30 (quoting Nathanson & Bartnika, The Constitutionality of Preferential Treatment for Minority Applicants to Professional Schools, 58 Chicago Bar Rec. 282, 293 (May—June 1977)). The Court defines this time limit in terms of narrow tailoring, see ante, at 30, but I believe this arises from its refusal to define rigorously the broad state interest vindicated today. Cf. Part II, supra. With these observations, I join the last sentence of Part III of the opinion of the Court.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the minority very strongly. Even after writing an opinion about two other cases very similar to this one, I still fail to come to terms with how taking a person’s race into consideration when deciding their admission is not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, even if it’s just a little bit. If a person deserves to get into a specific college because they have worked hard for it and have good grades, they should very well get in, but if it’s something as simple as their race holding them back; something they literally have no control over, that’s fair well a complete violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees “equal protection under the law.” “Diversity” is not an advantage. A person is more likely to choose to attend a college because they have a long record of successful alumnis or good professors teaching a major that specific person is interested, than simply because they have diversity. There is practically zero benefit of having a diverse environment other than the students there get to experience different cultures, etc, which could be easily done in such a diverse country such as the United States. I fail to see why race should be taken into account for admissions now, and I will continue to be bewildered by this far in the future. Like Antonin Scalia wrote, “The Constitution proscribes government discrimination on the basis of race, and state-provided education is no exception.”

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

Board of Ed. of Independence District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls: Extracurricular-Required Urinal Drug Test (05/27/2002)

Board of Ed. of Independence District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls

Is the Student Activities Drug Testing Policy, which requires all students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities to participate in a drug testing, consistent with the Fourth Amendment?

Argued: 03/19/2002

Decision Date: 05/27/2002

Decision Record: 5-4; yes

Justices in Favor: William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer

Justices Dissenting: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that the requirement for students wanting to participate in this particular school is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty., attorney Linda M. Meoli argued, “This case involves the constitutionality of the Tecumseh School Board’s decision to implement a suspicionless drug testing pro- policy for students in competitive activities as a reasonable response to student drug use.

Tecumseh’s policy represents a natural, logical, and rational application of this Court’s decision in Vernonia V Acton.

Vernonia’s policy applied to students who chose to participate in interscholastic athletics.

Tecumseh’s policy applies as well to athletics, but also to all the other competitive activities that are offered by the district.

Respondents do not challenge the policy as applied to the athletics, conceding that this Court approved that practice in Vernonia.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Earls, attorney Graham A. Boyd argued, “Opposing counsel said we have to draw the line somewhere, and the way the way to draw the line in this case is to keep in mind the core principle that individualized reasonable suspicion is the standard for school searches set forth in TLO.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “Finally, we find that testing students who participate in extracurricular activities is a reasonably effective means of addressing the School District’s legitimate concerns in preventing, deterring, and detecting drug use. While in Vernonia there might have been a closer fit between the testing of athletes and the trial court’s finding that the drug problem was “fueled by the ‘role model’ effect of athletes’ drug use,” such a finding was not essential to the holding. 515 U.S., at 663; cf. id., at 684—685 (O’Connor, J., dissenting) (questioning the extent of the drug problem, especially as applied to athletes). Vernonia did not require the school to test the group of students most likely to use drugs, but rather considered the constitutionality of the program in the context of the public school’s custodial responsibilities. Evaluating the Policy in this context, we conclude that the drug testing of Tecumseh students who participate in extracurricular activities effectively serves the School District’s interest in protecting the safety and health of its students.

    Within the limits of the Fourth Amendment, local school boards must assess the desirability of drug testing schoolchildren. In upholding the constitutionality of the Policy, we express no opinion as to its wisdom. Rather, we hold only that Tecumseh’s Policy is a reasonable means of furthering the School District’s important interest in preventing and deterring drug use among its schoolchildren. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.”

In opposition, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “I dissented in Vernonia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646 (1995), and continue to believe that case was wrongly decided. Because Vernonia is now this Court’s precedent, and because I agree that petitioners’ program fails even under the balancing approach adopted in that case, I join Justice Ginsburg’s dissent.”
Also disagreeing with the majority, Justice Ruther Bader Ginsburg wrote, “It is a sad irony that the petitioning School District seeks to justify its edict here by trumpeting “the schools’ custodial and tutelary responsibility for children.” Vernonia, 515 U.S., at 656. In regulating an athletic program or endeavoring to combat an exploding drug epidemic, a school’s custodial obligations may permit searches that would otherwise unacceptably abridge students’ rights. When custodial duties are not ascendant, however, schools’ tutelary obligations to their students require them to “teach by example” by avoiding symbolic measures that diminish constitutional protections. “That [schools] are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.” West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 637 (1943).”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority. Most schools already do spontaneous drug checks commonly without needing reasonable suspicion. This shouldn’t be that much different. I personally do not believe an administrator needs any sort of “reasonable suspicion” to perform a drug test on a group of kids. There always reason to believe that a person may or may not be doing drugs, especially in a school-environment where one is surrounded around tons of influencers. Not only that, I wouldn’t consider a urinal drug test much of an “invasion of privacy.” There’s not much to hide in one’s urine; and if it’s for the better of the students and school, then so be it.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

Obergefell v. Hodges: Licensing Same Sex Marriage (05/26/2015)

Obergefell v. Hodges

Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

Argued: 04/28/2015

Decision Date: 05/26/2015

Decision Record: 5-4; yes

Justices in Favor: Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan

Justices Dissenting: John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that states must accept and license same sex marriages.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of Obergefell, attorney Mary L. Bonauto argued, “The intimate and committed relationships of same-sex couples, just like those of heterosexual couples, provide mutual support and are the foundation of family life in our society.

If a legal commitment, responsibility and protection that is marriage is off limits to gay people as a class, the stain of unworthiness that follows on individuals and families contravenes the basic constitutional commitment to equal dignity. Indeed, the abiding purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment is to preclude relegating classes of persons to second-tier status.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Hodges, attorney Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. argued, “Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of these couples.

It demeans their children, and it denies the — both the couples and their children the stabilizing structure that marriage affords. Now, the Respondents’ principal argument, and what we’ve been discussing this morning so far, is whether this issue of — whether this discrimination should persist, is something that should be left to the political process or whether it should be something decided by the Court.

And I’d like to make three points about that, if I could. First, the — I think it’s important to understand that if this Court concludes that this issue should be left to the political process, what the Court will be saying is that the demeaning, second-class status that gay and lesbian couples now inhabit in — in States that do not provide for marriage is consistent with the equal protection of the laws.

That is not a wait-and-see.

That is a validation. And second, to the extent that the thought is that this can be left to the political process because this issue will take care of itself over time, because attitudes are changing, what I respectfully submit to the Court is that although no one can see the future perfectly, of course, that it seems much more likely to me that the outcome that we’re going to end up with is something that will approximate the nation as a house divided that we had with de jure racial segregation.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Then in dissent, Justice John Roberts wrote, “In the face of all this, a much different view of the Court’s role is possible. That view is more modest and restrained. It is more skeptical that the legal abilities of judges also reflect insight into moral and philosophical issues. It is more sensitive to the fact that judges are unelected and unaccountable, and that the legitimacy of their power depends on confining it to the exercise of legal judgment. It is more attuned to the lessons of history, and what it has meant for the country and Court when Justices have exceeded their proper bounds. And it is less pretentious than to suppose that while people around the world have viewed an institution in a particular way for thousands of years, the present generation and the present Court are the ones chosen to burst the bonds of that history and tradition.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I disagree with the majority and agree with the minority. Requiring licensing of the same sex marriage might be equal, but it has nothing to do with the”equal protection of the law” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Constitution states nothing having to do with marriage of the same sex. The Supreme Court’s job is the interpret the Constitution. Therefore, it is not the Supreme Court’s job to decide whether or not same sex marriage is legal. That should be determined by the state like it previously was. The majority side of the Supreme Court judges interpreted the Constitution too vaguely and crossed the boundaries. Like Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion, “If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

Brown v. Board of Education: Segregation of Public Education (05/17/1954)

Brown v. Board of Education

Does the segregation of public education based only on race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Argued: 12/8-10/1952; 12/6-8/1953

Decision Date: 05/17/1954

Decision Record: 9-0; yes

Justices in Favor: Earl Warren, Hugo Black, Stanley Reed, Felix Frankfurter, William Douglas, Robert Jackson, Harold Burton, Tom Clark, Sherman Minton

Justices Dissenting: None

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled segregation in public schools is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In Favor

In the favoring side, attorneys Robert L. Carter, Thurgood Marshall, and Spottswood Robinson III argued on the side of Brown.

Against

In the opposition, on the side of the the Board of Education, attorney Paul E.Wilson, John W. Davis, T. Justin Moore, and J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. argued.

Justices:

 

The decision in this case was unanimous on the side of Brown. Justice Earl Warren delivered the opinion of the court. He wrote, “We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This disposition makes unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[n12]

Because these are class actions, because of the wide applicability of this decision, and because of the great variety of local conditions, the formulation of decrees in these cases presents problems of considerable complexity. On reargument, the consideration of appropriate relief was necessarily subordinated to the primary question — the constitutionality of segregation in public education. We have now announced that such segregation is a denial of the equal protection of the laws. In order that we may have the full assistance of the parties in formulating decrees, the cases will be restored to the docket, and the parties are requested to present further argument on Questions 4 and 5 previously propounded by the Court for the reargument this Term[n13] The Attorney General[p496] of the United States is again invited to participate. The Attorneys General of the states requiring or permitting segregation in public education will also be permitted to appear as amici curiae upon request to do so by September 15, 1954, and submission of briefs by October 1, 1954.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the court’s decision. Segregation was not only morally incorrect but it was not equal; not in the least bit. The Fourteenth Amendment’s famous clause “equal protection under the law” was completely violated under the “separate but equal” phrase that was implemented in the Plessy v. Ferguson case. Blacks and whites were more like “separate but unequal.” They were taught differently and were both treated differently by society. They had different park benches, restrooms, fountains, etc. The Plessy v. Ferguson case was what really gave the whites permission to treat the blacks horribly and keep them from coming in contact with other white people. The whites received things that were 100x more luxurious than that of the blacks. This is the pure meaning of inequality and that word definitely does not belong with and violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

Morse v. Frederick: Promotion of Illegal Drug Use at School-Supervised Event (05/25/2007)

Morse v. Frederick

Does the First Amendment allow public schools to forbid students from displaying messages encouraging the use of illegal drugs at school-supervised events?

Argued: 03/19/2007

Decision Date: 05/25/2007

Decision Record: 5-4; yes

Justices in Favor: John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito

Justices Dissenting: John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that schools have the right to prohibit messages, etc. that promote things like illegal drug use at school-supervised events.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of Morse, attorney Kenneth W. Starr argued, “Illegal drugs and the glorification of the drug culture are profoundly serious problems for our nation.

Congress has so recognized, as has this Court, time and again.

The magnitude of the problem is captured in the amicus brief, the Court has a number of amicus briefs before it, but the amicus brief of General McCaffrey, Secretary Bennett, and a number of organizations.

And particularly, pages 5 to 9 of that brief, the nature and the scope of the problem are well-captured.

Well, there are several gradations that the Court could take: Advocacy of illegal conduct generally; more specifically advocacy of illegal drugs.

But I believe… I think it’s important to recognize that this Court’s precedents recognize… recognize several different justifications for restricting student speech.

In Tinker itself which dealt with political speech, the Court was careful to point out that even then, if the speech could be shown to present a threat of a material disruption to the class work, and I think this would answer your question, Mr. Chief Justice, if the teacher wants to teach Shakespeare, the teacher doesn’t have to turn over the class to political speech.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of Frederick, attorney Edwin S. Kneedler argued, “The First Amendment does not require public school officials to stand aside and permit students who are entrusted to their supervision and care to promote or encourage the use of illegal drugs.

As this Court observed in Earls, the nationwide drug… drug epidemic makes the war against drugs a pressing concern in every school.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “School principals have a difficult job, and a vitally important one. When Frederick suddenly and unexpectedly unfurled his banner, Morse had to decide to act—or not act—on the spot. It was reasonable for her to conclude that the banner promoted illegal drug use—in violation of established school policy—and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge, including Frederick, about how serious the school was about the dangers of illegal drug use. The First Amendment does not require schools to tolerate at school events student expression that contributes to those dangers.

    The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Then in dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “Although this case began with a silly, nonsensical banner, it ends with the Court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, at least so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message. Our First Amendment jurisprudence has identified some categories of expression that are less deserving of protection than others—fighting words, obscenity, and commercial speech, to name a few. Rather than reviewing our opinions discussing such categories, I mention two personal recollections that have no doubt influenced my conclusion that it would be profoundly unwise to create special rules for speech about drug and alcohol use.

    The Vietnam War is remembered today as an unpopular war. During its early stages, however, “the dominant opinion” that Justice Harlan mentioned in his Tinkerdissent regarded opposition to the war as unpatriotic, if not treason. 393 U. S., at 526. That dominant opinion strongly supported the prosecution of several of those who demonstrated in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, see United States v. Dellinger, 472 F. 2d 340 (CA7 1972),and the vilification of vocal opponents of the war like Julian Bond, cf. Bond v. Floyd385 U. S. 116 (1966) . In 1965, when the Des Moines students wore their armbands, the school district’s fear that they might “start an argument or cause a disturbance” was well founded. Tinker, 393 U. S., at 508. Given that context, there is special force to the Court’s insistence that “our Constitution says we must take that risk; and our history says that it is this sort of hazardous freedom—this kind of openness—that is the basis of our national strength and of the independence and vigor of Americans who grow up and live in this relatively permissive, often disputatious, society.” Id., at 508–509 (citation omitted). As we now know, the then-dominant opinion about the Vietnam War was not etched in stone.

    Reaching back still further, the current dominant opinion supporting the war on drugs in general, and our antimarijuana laws in particular, is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student. While alcoholic beverages are now regarded as ordinary articles of commerce, their use was then condemned with the same moral fervor that now supports the war on drugs. The ensuing change in public opinion occurred much more slowly than the relatively rapid shift in Americans’ views on the Vietnam War, and progressed on a state-by-state basis over a period of many years. But just as prohibition in the 1920’s and early 1930’s was secretly questioned by thousands of otherwise law-abiding patrons of bootleggers and speakeasies, today the actions of literally millions of otherwise law-abiding users of marijuana,9 and of the majority of voters in each of the several States that tolerate medicinal uses of the product,10 lead me to wonder whether the fear of disapproval by those in the majority is silencing opponents of the war on drugs. Surely our national experience with alcohol should make us wary of dampening speech suggesting—however inarticulately—that it would be better to tax and regulate marijuana than to persevere in a futile effort to ban its use entirely.

    Even in high school, a rule that permits only one point of view to be expressed is less likely to produce correct answers than the open discussion of countervailing views. Whitney, 274 U. S., at 377 (Brandeis, J., concurring); Abrams, 250 U. S., at 630 (Holmes, J., dissenting); Tinker, 393 U. S., at 512. In the national debate about a serious issue, it is the expression of the minority’s viewpoint that most demands the protection of the First Amendment . Whatever the better policy may be, a full and frank discussion of the costs and benefits of the attempt to prohibit the use of marijuana is far wiser than suppression of speech because it is unpopular.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority decision. The school has complete authority to regulate things like this. It’s their job. The First Amendment, like I’ve stated in a previous case, had the purpose of allowing people to freely express themselves, whether it’s through words or religion. In this case, Frederick merely did it for the fun of it. There was no real meaning behind it except for the fact that it was extremely inappropriate; especially at a school-supervised event. It is a school administrator’s job make sure everything that everyone’s doing is school-appropriate and won’t affect others in a negative manner. Holding up a banner that promoted illegal drug use did none of that.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

West Side Community Schools v. Mergens: Equal Access Act (06/04/1990)

West Side Community Schools v. Mergens

Was Westside’s prohibition against the formation of a Christian club consistent with the Establishment Clause, thereby rendering the Equal Access Act unconstitutional?

Argued: 01/09/1990

Decision Date: 06/04/1990

Decision Record: 8-1; no

Justices in Favor: John Paul Stevens

Justices Dissenting: William Rehnquist, William Brennan, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that refusing to allow the Christian club was a violation of the Equal Access Act.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the West Side, attorney Allen E. Daubman argued, “This case presents issues central to the operation of co-curricular activities in the public secondary schools in this country.

Of critical importance in that regard, obviously, is the equal access act, which was enacted by Congress in the fall of 1984.

The act basically provides that a school which conducts, or has a limited open forum, may not deny access to that forum on the basis of the political, philosophical or religious content of speech.

In that regard, the Congress defined “limited open forum” to mean when a school district grants an opportunity for one or more noncurriculum-related student groups to meet on school premises during noninstructional time.

It is that statutory framework which causes difficulty in school districts in trying to comply with the act and meet their educational obligations.

The Equal Access Act, as we see it, basically balances three concerns: certainly the free speech rights of students in our public schools; certainly also it balances a concern of nonestablishment of religion; and certainly also it affords deference to school officials, affords them the autonomy and discretion to make educational decisions.

In that context, we urge the Court to interpret the act, interpret noncurriculum-related, as that term is used in the act, to encompass a situation which is not found at Westside High School.

All of the student clubs and organizations at Westside High School were under, by school board policy, the direct control and supervision of the administration and shall have a faculty sponsor.

The record is replete with testimony that the school officials maintained an active role in practice, in determining the goals and objectives of student clubs and organizations and the manner in which those clubs and organizations operated in their school.”

Against

In the opposition, on the side of the city of Mergens, attorney Jay Alan Sekulow argued, “The students of Westside High School who desire to form a student-initiated, student-led and voluntary Bible club do acknowledge that the school officials have important and oftentime delicate functions to perform with regard to the operation of schools under their control.

However, these concerns do not justify the prohibition of these students’ Bible club from the Westside High School campus.

At issue at Westside High School, and what is before the court today is whether one or more noncurriculum-related clubs existed, which would then trigger Congress’ Equal Access Act.

The Peer Advocates Club, which was discussed at trial, was an admission by the principal himself that that particular club was not related to any of the curriculum activities of Westside High School.

The pretrial stipulation that was discussed by the Petitioners’ attorney related to ten clubs that were designated to be discussed.

However, and I think it’s important to note that that same stipulation did not state that they would… that the Respondents would in any way not challenge other club activities.

The school officials themselves have set forth, if you will, the way in which to make the determination of whether a particular club is related to the curriculum.

And our test for whether the act would be triggered would be whether there is a direct relationship between the club and a core curriculum course or a curriculum course.

For instance, in defining the clubs, as it has in its… in the Joint Appendix there is a listing of the various student groups and student clubs that meet at Westside High School.

One of the clubs, Distributive Education Club, is listed by the schools as, in fact, an extension of the course in distributive education.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the opinion for the court. She wrote, “Under the Act, however, faculty monitors may not participate in any religious meetings, and nonschool persons may not direct, control, or regularly attend activities of student groups. §§ 4071(c)(3) and (5). Moreover, the Act prohibits school “sponsorship” of any religious meetings, § 4071(c)(2), which means that school officials may not promote, lead, or participate in any such meeting, § 4072(2). Although the Act permits “[t]he assignment of a teacher, administrator, or other school employee to the meeting for custodial purposes,” ibid., such custodial oversight of the student-initiated religious group, merely to ensure order and good behavior, does not impermissibly entangle government in the day-to-day surveillance or administration of religious activities. See Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor, 471 U.S. 290, 305-306 (1985). Indeed, as the Court noted in Widmar, a denial of equal access to religious speech might well create greater entanglement problems in the form of invasive monitoring to prevent religious speech at meetings at which such speech might occur.See Widmar, 454 U.S. at 272, n. 11.

Accordingly, we hold that the Equal Access Act does not on its face contravene the Establishment Clause. Because we hold that petitioners have violated the Act, we do not decide respondents’ claims under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses. For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.”

Then in dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “Against all these arguments, the Court interposes Noah Webster’s famous dictionary. It is a massive tome, but no match for the weight the Court would put upon it. The Court relies heavily on the dictionary’s definition of “curriculum.” See ante at 237. That word, of course, is not the Act’s; moreover, the word “noncurriculum” is not in the dictionary. Neither Webster nor Congress has authorized us to assume that “noncurriculum” is a precise antonym of the word “curriculum.” “Nonplus,” for example, does not mean “minus,” and it would be incorrect to assume that a “nonentity” is not an “entity” at all. Purely as a matter of defining a newly-coined word, the term “noncurriculum” could fairly be construed to describe either the subjects that are “not a part of the current curriculum” or the subjects that “cannot properly be included in a public school curriculum.” Either of those definitions is perfectly “sensible,” because both describe subjects “that are not related to the body of courses offered by the school.” See ante at 237. When one considers the basic purpose of the Act and its unquestioned linkage to our decision in Widmar, the latter definition surely is the more “sensible.””

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority decision. By refusing to fund for or allow a Christian club, not only are you violating the Equal Access Act, which requires “federally funded secondary schools to provide ‘equal access’ to extracurricular clubs,” according to Google, you are also violating one’s right to the freedom of religious expression, which is stated clearly of the First Amendment. The school should not have refused the club because they violated the students’ constitutional rights.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

Vernonia School District v. Acton: Reasonable Random Drug Searches (06/26/1995)

Vernonia School District v. Acton

Does random drug testing of high school athletes violate the reasonable search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment?

Argued: 03/28/1995

Decision Date: 06/26/1995

Decision Record: 6-3; no

Justices in Favor: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter

Justices Dissenting: William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that the random drug tests at the high school did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the Vernonia School District, attorney Timothy R. Voleprt argued, “The issue presented is whether a school district faced with a serious drug problem with student athletes at its core may reasonably require athletes to submit to drug testing absent individualized suspicion.

The hard evidence of drug use consists, Justice Souter, of observations on numerous occasions by a teacher of students smoking marijuana across the street, arrests of student athletes for using drugs, confiscation of drug paraphernalia on school grounds, admissions by students to the principal that they have used drugs, admissions by certain student athletes to the coaches that they had used drugs, coaches’ observations of marijuana coming from the room of athletes the day after a serious injury–“

Against

In the opposition, on the side of the city of Acton, attorney Richard H. Seamon argued, “I’d like to begin by addressing a question that arose earlier.

The question was, if there was so much evidence of drug use in Vernonia, why wasn’t there enough individualized suspicion to make individualized suspicion-based testing effective?

That question is plainly relevant under the balancing approach this Court applied in Skinner and Von Raab, because even though the Court declined to impose a least intrusive means requirement in its analysis, it is plain that alternatives to suspicionless testing are relevant to decide whether suspicionless testing is actually necessary to further the governmental interest that is being asserted, and I think that the limitations of individualized suspicion testing are illustrated well on the facts of this case.

Some of the evidence concerned drug use by individual students, and would have permitted individualized suspicion-based testing of those students… for example, the students from whom drug paraphernalia was confiscated, the students who were seen smoking marijuana in the coffee shop across the street from the school, the students who were arrested for using intoxicants at a party during the school day.

But this was not the only relevant evidence in the record that there was a drug problem in Vernonia.

The school district witnessed a two to threefold increase in disciplinary problems over the course of a couple of years.

At the same time, it witnessed the rise of an apparent drug culture.

Students boasting about their use of drugs, whether true or false, was certainly relevant to the officials’ assessment of whether a drug problem existed, and finally, the organization of groups with names like The Drug Cartel.

Now, maybe the fact that a student belongs to a group called The Drug Cartel does not provide individualized reasonable suspicion for testing that individual.

That would be a debatable point.

But the fact that such a group springs into existence at the same time that there is a two to threefold increase in disciplinary problems, and teachers for the first time begin hearing students boasting about drug use and writing about it in essays that they hand in to be graded clearly is relevant in assessing the existence of a drug problem.”

Justices:

On the side of the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “Taking into account all the factors we have considered above–the decreased expectation of privacy, the relative unobtrusiveness of the search, and the severity of the need met by the search–we conclude Vernonia’s Policy is reasonable and hence constitutional.

We caution against the assumption that suspicionless drug testing will readily pass constitutional muster in other contexts. The most significant element in this case is the first we discussed: that the Policy was undertaken in furtherance of the government’s responsibilities, under a public school system, as guardian and tutor of children entrusted to its care. [n.4] Just as when the government conducts a search in its capacity as employer (a warrantless search of an absent employee’s desk to obtain an urgently needed file, for example), the relevant question is whether that intrusion upon privacy is one that a reasonable employer might engage in, see O’Connor v. Ortega480 U.S. 709(1987); so also when the government acts as guardian and tutor the relevant question is whether the search is one that a reasonable guardian and tutor might undertake. Given the findings of need made by the District Court, we conclude that in the present case it is.

We may note that the primary guardians of Vernonia’s schoolchildren appear to agree. The record shows no objection to this districtwide program by any parents other than the couple before us here–even though, as we have described, a public meeting was held to obtain parents’ views. We find insufficient basis to contradict the judgment of Vernonia’s parents, its school board, and the District Court, as to what was reasonably in the interest of these children under the circumstances.”

Then in dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “On this record, then, it seems to me that the far more reasonable choice would have been to focus on the class of students found to have violated published school rules against severe disruption in class and around campus, see Record, Exh. 2, at 9, 11–disruption that had a strong nexus to drug use, as the District established at trial. Such a choice would share two of the virtues of a suspicion based regime: testing dramatically fewer students, tens as against hundreds, and giving students control, through their behavior, over the likelihood that they would be tested. Moreover, there would be a reduced concern for the accusatory nature of the search, because the Court’s feared “badge of shame,” ante, at 17, would already exist, due to the antecedent accusation and finding of severe disruption. In a lesser known aspect of Skinner, we upheld an analogous testing scheme with little hesitation. See Skinner, 489 U. S., at 611 (describing ” `Authorization to Test for Cause’ ” scheme, according to which train operators would be tested “in the event of certain specific rule violations, including noncompliance with a signal and excessive speeding”).

It cannot be too often stated that the greatest threats to our constitutional freedoms come in times of crisis. But we must also stay mindful that not all government responses to such times are hysterical overreactions; some crises are quite real, and when they are, they serve precisely as the compelling state interest that we have said may justify a measured intrusion on constitutional rights. The only way for judges to mediate these conflicting impulses is to do what they should do anyway: stay close to the record in each case that appears before them, and make their judgments based on that alone. Having reviewed the record here, I cannot avoid the conclusion that the District’s suspicionless policy of testing all student athletes sweeps too broadly, and too imprecisely, to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority decision. The random drug searches did not violate the reasonable suspicion clause of the Fourth Amendment. The random drug searches were due to the official drug investigation. They discovered drugs and that’s enough suspicion for the authorities and police to perform random drug searches.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right