Search Protection Leads Court Agenda 

Search Protection Leads Court Agenda 
Posted by FoM on September 30, 2000 at 15:07:00 PT
By Laurie Asseo, Associated Press Writer
Source: Associated Press
 Difficult questions about Americans' constitutional protection against unreasonable searches - while in their homes, cars and even in hospital beds - lead the Supreme Court's agenda as the justices begin their 2000-2001 term Monday.Some observers, however, say the most important day for the nation's highest court will be election day. The next president will choose the next members of a court that has been divided 5-4 on some of the nation's most explosive issues.
The court this term also is confronting a major challenge to the nation's premier environmental law, the Clean Air Act, and will decide whether people can sue states to enforce the federal ban on discrimination against the disabled.The term that ended in June was a blockbuster. The justices upheld the Miranda warnings police must give before questioning criminal suspects, let the Boy Scouts ban homosexual troop leaders and struck down a state's ``partial-birth'' abortion law.They also banned group prayers at public high school football games and prevented rape victims from suing their attackers in federal courts.The court last week cleared its plate of the massive Microsoft antitrust dispute by sending it to a federal appeals court, delaying a final ruling perhaps for years.The 47 cases granted review for the new term - with about two dozen more to be added in coming months - lack the political punch of last year's cases but still will touch the lives of many ordinary Americans.``It's already looming as a big year for the Fourth Amendment,'' which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and arrests, said Steven Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union.A case that could affect the nation's 185 million licensed drivers asks whether police can arrest people for traffic violations punishable only by a fine. A Texas woman, whose lawyers call her a ``typical motorist,'' says police went too far when they arrested, handcuffed and jailed her because she and her children were not wearing seatbelts in the family pickup truck.Other cases illustrate ``the pressure that the war on drugs has exerted on the Fourth Amendment in particular and the Constitution in general,'' Shapiro said.The justices will decide whether police can set up traffic checkpoints and stop motorists in hopes of catching people who sell or use illegal drugs.Police generally need a warrant or a reason to suspect someone of a crime before detaining them for several minutes, and a lower court ruled that drug checkpoints by Indianapolis police likely amounted to unreasonable seizures. But the Supreme Court previously has upheld roadblocks aimed at catching drunken drivers.Another war-on-drugs case asks whether public hospitals can test pregnant patients for drug use and tell police who tested positive. A South Carolina hospital tested patients' urine without a court warrant, and if the result were positive, women were arrested for endangering the fetus.A group of women sued but a federal appeals court upheld the tests, saying hospitals had a ``substantial interest'' in seeking to reduce cocaine use by pregnant women.A case that was among a dozen granted review last week, when the justices got a head start on their new term, asks whether police need a search warrant to use a device to detect heat coming from someone's home. An Oregon man was charged with growing marijuana after police said a heat-detecting device showed an unusual amount of heat coming from the roof over his garage.Still another marijuana-search case involves an Illinois man who was prevented by police from going inside his home alone until the officers could get a warrant to search for the drug.The Clean Air Act dispute could yield a hugely important ruling on environmental protection that might also limit other federal agencies' authority to write rules to implement laws passed by Congress.Industry groups want the Environmental Protection Agency to consider costs, in addition to health benefits, in setting federal air-quality standards. The case began as a dispute over the EPA's 1997 standards for reducing smog and soot.``The argument is not that we want to turn back the clock'' on environmental protection, said Edward Warren, a lawyer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Instead, he said the issue is ``how are we going to do the most with what we have in solving environmental problems?''But Frank O'Donnell of the Clean Air Trust called the air-quality standards ``the heart and lungs of the Clean Air Act'' and said a Supreme Court win for industry would mean ``more pollution, more health damage for all of us.''The justices might use the disability-bias case to forge ahead with what some legal scholars call a states' rights revolution - a series of rulings that have sharply tipped the federal-state balance of governmental power toward the states. In January the court ruled that state employees cannot go into federal court to sue over age bias.Now, the justices have agreed to decide whether state employees can sue in federal court to enforce the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that aims to protect the disabled against job bias. The law is perhaps best known for requiring wheelchair ramps in buildings across the country.The court's decision could sweep broadly enough to affect all ADA lawsuits filed against state governments, not just those filed by state employees.On the Net: Supreme Court Web Site: Source: Associated PressAuthor: Laurie Asseo, Associated Press WriterSaturday September 30 11:53 AM ETCopyright  2000 The Associated Press.Related Articles & Web Site:A.C.L.U. To Consider Heat Warrant Need Reverses Self, Says No Warrant Needed Justice Archives:
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Comment #1 posted by EdC on October 01, 2000 at 07:41:34 PT:
Search Protection Leads Court Agenda
It would be nice if we could go into any court and say "I did this because the Constitution says I can," but we can't. Why?This country is still operating under emergency powers granted to President Roosevelt more than a half century ago. Before that, the government was severely limited in the scope of its operation. For example, the government could not prohibit alcohol without amending the Constitution.Roosevelt never declared the emergency over, nor has any President since. Why? Obviously this power is addictive. We lead the world in the number of citizens locked away. We have private bankers (the Federal Reserve) managing our money supply for their own profit. We are $trillions in debt, and there is no end in sight.   Our kids pledge allegiance to the flag every morning, yet ask them about "the Republic for which it stands," and you'll come up cold. This is scary. We must demand that the Constitution be fully restored immediately.We punish people for crimes that shouldn't even be a crime. Under today's laws, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be jailed as a threat to society. Their properties would be confiscated by the government for growing an unapproved plant. This is ridiculous. It's time for change.
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