by Nat Hentoff
As rarely as I celebrate decisions of the Roberts Supreme Court, I certainly agree with its unanimous ruling last week that protects the privacy rights of cellphone users from government searches without due process. I also agree with last week’s unanimous decision that ends the no-free-speech buffer zones on public streets alongside abortion clinics, which penalized the speaking presence of pro-lifers (“The Court’s Powerful New Consensus,” Neal K. Katyal, The New York Times, June 27).
But, as happens almost daily in his press releases and analyses, Rutherford Institute founder John Whitehead keeps reminding us of brazen Supreme Court violations of the Constitution during this and past administrations.
In a June 23 commentary, this constitutional lawyer performed a needed public service and hopefully awakened much of the media.
Did you know that “police officers can stop cars based only on ‘anonymous’ tips”?
Whitehead continues: “In a 5-4 ruling in Navarette v. California (2014), the court declared that police officers can, under the guise of ‘reasonable suspicion,’ stop cars and question drivers based solely on anonymous tips, no matter how dubious, and whether or not they themselves witnessed any troubling behavior.
“This ruling came on the heels of a ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Westhoven that driving too carefully, with a rigid posture, taking a scenic route and having acne are sufficient reasons for a police officer to suspect you of doing something illegal, detain you, search your car and arrest you — even if you’ve done nothing illegal to warrant the stop in the first place” (“The U.S. Supreme Court Is Marching in Lockstep with the Police State,” John Whitehead, rutherford.org, June 23).
This is the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Whitehead goes on to explain another startling contempt of the Constitution, which the great majority of our students are not learning about in school: “Police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. In an 8-1 ruling in Kentucky v. King (2011), the Supreme Court placed their trust in the discretion of police officers, rather than in the dictates of the Constitution, when they gave police greater leeway to break into homes or apartments without a warrant.
“Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by the police.”
Whitehead then makes this very troubling point: “The cases the Supreme Court refuses to hear, allowing lower court judgments to stand, are almost as critical as the ones they rule on. Some of these cases, turned away in recent years alone, have delivered devastating blows to the rights enshrined in the Constitution.”
Dig this: “Legally owning a firearm is enough to justify a no-knock raid by police. Justices refused to hear Quinn v. Texas (2014), the case of a Texas man who was shot by police through his closed bedroom door and whose home was subject to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally owned firearms in his household.”
Now we come to how the Supreme Court is teaching our public school students on how to define themselves as American citizens:
“Students can be subjected to random lockdowns and mass searches at school” — without, I add, any probable cause that a crime has been committed.
(Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. )
He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow.)