Supreme Court actions

I don't have a lot to say about it, but I'm rather horrified (yes, even being a Catholic) at yesterday's Supreme Court ruling that prayers to open government meetings are appropriate, even if they do favor one religion.  It's allowing local government to implicitly (heck, maybe even explicitly) sanction one religion, and that's just bad news for everyone.

I haven't read any of the majority opinion (and it's a 5-4 split decision, going exactly along the lines you'd expect), but I have a hard time believing that this isn't a clear-cut case of judicial activism.

I wanted to talk a little bit more about inspections of cell phones, and the Fourth Amendment.  That's one that the court is considering, but hasn't issued a ruling on, and they talked about it on NPR yesterday (I think it was the Kojo Nnamdi show, although he wasn't there, so I'm not sure).

The discussion was pretty interesting, although there were a couple points made (it should be pointed out, as devil's advocate) that just don't hold water.  One was that police are in constant danger.  Certainly, if you watch crime dramas, you'll think this is the case.  If you watch them, you'll think that drawing a gun is close to a daily occurence for a police officer.  But in real life, it's closer to a once-in-a-career event (something like once every twenty years).

They also brought up the remote wiping trope, and I was very happy that one of the guests brought up Faraday bags as a defense against that.

They also spent a lot of time talking about horrific crimes, as if that somehow justifies things.  But it really doesn't.  The whole point of the warrant is to show that a) you are pursuing a terrible crime (or would jaywalking justify rooting through someone's phone?) and b) that you have solid reasons to believe that the person whose phone is in question is, in fact, a relevant part of the investigation.

Because the simple fact of the matter is that if there's an easy avenue for abuse (and not having to show probable cause would definitely qualify as an easy avenue), it will be taken.  Hopefully very rarely, but it will happen.  If history teaches us nothing else, it certainly teaches us that.  (And if there's a permissive atmosphere among the police, it will not be a rare occurrence.)

What it all comes down to is that there is a severe power imbalance in any interaction between an average citizen and a police officer.  And if there are no checks on police power, that power will be abused.

Update: Forgot to look at my own links.  It was the Kojo Show, and this is the episode.

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