Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Fourth Amendment is not dead yet...

...not even in cars. See Arizona v. Gant, decided today (holding that police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to a recent occupant's arrest only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest).

The lineup of Justices is interesting -- Scalia votes with the majority while Breyer dissents. I think that right now Justice Scalia might be the most pro-defendant Justice on the Court. No joke.

In other news, check out this editorial in the DBR by Patricia Acosta in which she discusses the recent administrative order allowing reporters to bring in their cell phones, but prohibiting them from using them inside the courtrooms. Here's the conclusion:

A thawing of the federal freeze on electronic access? Hardly. The order — citing federal policies and rules adopted when television cameras were the size of refrigerators and blinding lights were needed to make them work — spells out that while the devices can be brought in, they cannot be used. Use, the order says, would “violate the sanctity of the courtroom and disrupt ongoing judicial proceedings.” Past administrative orders banned only the use of cell phones and cameras inside courtrooms but said nothing about text messaging or e-mailing. This bring-don’t-use rule does not, in my opinion, reasonably advance a legitimate judicial interest nor is it required by the old policies or rules. It assumes that texting is the same thing as 1960s-style broadcasting when that plainly is not the case. It also sets the stage for real disruption when all those BlackBerry-toting scribes rush for the exits after each key development to knock out a few lines, then try to get back in to see what they’ve just missed. The truth is that tapping text on silenced electronic devices is no more disruptive of courtroom proceedings than scribbling on a piece of paper, whispering in someone’s ear, a yawn, or a nod of the head in reaction to a ruling or a critical admission. No significant noise is created by the mere act of pressing the keys of a device to create or view a message. Federal judges themselves type electronic messages throughout trials and hearings. They know this does not disrupt the proceedings. Why then, the rule? It’s obvious. Once the tweeting starts, we’ll have real time, electronic reporting on big federal trials. This won’t harm the dignity of the proceedings, but it will further the case for letting video cameras in the door as well. Of course, the case for allowing that to happen was proven not only 30 years ago but also throughout the last 30 years of Florida state court history, so federal judges ought not be afraid that if they now allow a little twittering to go on, it will force them to do what they should have done long ago. We finally have reached the era where knowledge can be transmitted at the speed of light from almost any place. This technological advancement is here to stay and makes the world a better place. In the courtroom, it allows the journalist instantly to report the defendant’s gasp and the relative’s tears as the freshly rendered verdict shocks through the air. Thirty years ago, the spirit of openness drove seven courageous Florida judges to embrace a bold new technology that made our democracy better. Their federal colleagues need to start down that path somewhere. Tweet.


Fake Brennan said...

Read the opinion closely. Stevens (at the friend to the defense Scalia's demand) wrote a major exception into the the holding you cited.

Anonymous said...

Patricia may want to avoid the cj's courtroom for a while!