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Analysis of “High Court Curbs Claim on Privacy in a Home Essay

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     The article “High Court Curbs Claim on Privacy in a Home,” by Linda Greenhouse was a New York Times article about a Supreme Court case. The legal issue that the Supreme Court examined was a case where the court overturned a 1997 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling. The Minnesota ruling protected the rights of men doing business in a private home from illegal searches and seizures. The Supreme Court however overturned the Minnesota ruling, stating that people who were doing business in a home did not have the right to invoke their 4th Amendment right. The Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 in the case, which led to majority, dissenting, and concurring opinions.

     Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Justices Clarence Thomas, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Antonin Scalia all formed the majority opinion, with Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas forming concurring opinions. Chief Justice Rehnquist’s majority opinion was used in the article, in which Rehnquist argued that since the men in the Minnesota case were conducting business in a private home their 4th amendment right against unreasonable searchers and privacy could not be invoked.

Rehnquist’s opinion was a strict construction of the constitution because his opinion reflected the intention of the original framers. Philosophically Rehnquist stuck to the original framers’ intentions because he found no fault in the officer’s actions who witnessed the men committing a crime through venetian blinds. Rehnquist argued that the officer was within his rights to watch and subsequently arrest the men because they had no rights to privacy, which was the goal of the original framers of the constitution because they did not grant any protections to invited guests in a person’s home.

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     Disagreeing with the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Stephen G. Breyer both had dissenting opinions. Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion was a loose construction of the constitution. Ginsburg’s philosophical view in the case was that the majority overlooked the rights of the invited guests because although they did not live in the home guests still had a right to privacy. However, the framers of the constitution gave no such protections. The 4th amendment states that it protects “the right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, paper and effects,” it made no mention of invited guest.

     Justice Breyer also had a dissenting opinion, but he also agreed with part of the majority’s reasoning. Breyer’s opinion was both a loose and strict construction of the constitution because on one hand he believed that the Minnesota men were protected by the 4th amendment’s privacy right. While on the other hand he agreed with the majority and argued that the officer’s actions did not violate any 4th amendment rights.

     Finally, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy all had concurring opinions. Kennedy’s views differed from Scalia and Thomas’s opinions and he took a loose construction of the constitution. Philosophically Kennedy believed that social guest have a right to expect privacy while visiting a person’s home, which is a loose construction of the constitution because the constitution’s framers make no mention of a guest’s right to privacy.

On the other hand Scalia and Thomas took strict constructions of the constitution. Scalia and Thomas believed that “the right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, paper and effects,” as stated in the 4th amendment did not include the right’s of visitors in someone’s home, thus they stuck to the literal interpretation the constitution.

     Although the Justices came to different reasoning and judgments in this case, the court ultimately made the correct decision and the Justices all made logical arguments.

Reference:

Greenhouse, Linda. “High Court Curbs Claim on Privacy in a Home.” New York Times Archives 2 December 1998.  <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A07E1DB143BF931A35751C1A96E958260>

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