Supreme Court Rules Strip Searches for Any Offense Constitutional

In the wake of the publicity surrounding the health care debate, the Supreme Court made a ruling on Tuesday that will have huge implications for those entering the criminal justice system. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that any arrestee could be strip searched before entering jail, regardless of their offense and regardless of whether there is actual suspicion that they are concealing contraband. This means that anyone arrested for minor violations, such as traffic offenses, can be ordered to stand naked and subject themselves to a search. Justice Breyer’s dissent called the majority ruling “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy.”  Justice Kennedy, on the other hand, noted that even those arrested for minor offenses can turn out the be dangerous criminals. Who do you agree with?  Do you feel comfortable with this new policy? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts.



Health Care Arguments

Oral arguments on the health care overhaul law begin before the Supreme Court today. In the coming days, lawyers will continue to argue over the constitutionality of the law–but are the justices prevented from making any decision on the law at this point? Some argue the Anti-Injunction Act of 1867 forbids the Court from making a ruling because the law’s penalty portion is not yet in effect. Attorney Robert A. Long was asked by the justices to make this argument, and he will begin the proceedings today.  Read this article for more information, and remember that audio recordings of the arguments will be made available to the public.

Welcome Back

We hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable spring break! You might have missed some of the legal news last week, so here is a recap of several top stories:

  • The Supreme Court announced it will release same-day audio recordings of the arguments over the constitutionality of the health care overhaul law
  • Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was convicted of hate crimes, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, for using a webcam to spy on his roommate
  • The Justice Department civil rights division blocked a Texas law that requires voters to show photo ID at the polls because the law would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters and prevent many of them from voting

Know of any other big stories that we missed? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Supreme Court Law Clinics

IU has many clinics to offer, and the Moot Court competition is great, but imagine actually arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court as a law student.  Students at George Mason, Stanford, Harvard, NYU, Northwestern, UVA, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Texas can do just that. These schools offer clinics that provide pro bono representation before the Supreme Court. Students work with attorneys at prominent firms to prepare the cases, and though students don’t actually argue the cases before the justices, they are able to work on just about everything else.

We like this idea, not only because of the experience it provides students, but also because of the pro bono work it enables. If more firms enlisted the work of law students to help with their pro bono cases, would they be able to increase the number of cases they could handle? The best attorneys and the best law students in the country coming together to handle cases seems like a great idea and might make a bigger dent in the growing number of cases that require pro bono representation. What do you think? Would you participate in such a clinic if it were offered?

Discussion Panel Today: Is Affirmative Action Headed Back to the Supreme Court?

Last week, we told you that the Supreme Court would again take up the issue of considering race in admissions decisions. Today at noon, there will be a discussion panel on this very topic in the Moot Court Room. The announcement is below:

“In celebration of Black History Month, the Black Law Students’ Association and the Latino Law Student Association invite you to attend our discussion panel on the University of Texas at Austin’s use of affirmative action in its admissions policy. UT reintroduced race into its admissions process in 2003, following the Grutter v. Bollinger case. In 2008, a federal district court ruled in favor of the school’s affirmative action policy. The Fifth Circuit unanimously affirmed the decision.

The panel will consist of Prof. Bell, Prof. Conkle, Prof. Fuentes-Rohwer, and Prof. JohnsenProf. Brown will serve as the moderator. Some of the issues that will be discussed are critical mass and under-representation, whether the Supreme Court is likely to grant certiorari, how the case will likely be decided, the effect the case may have on minority groups such as African-Americans and Hispanics, and other important issues. Moot Court Room, noon.”

Admissions Decisions and Race

This week, news broke that the Supreme Court will consider race as a factor in college admissions decisions by hearing Fisher v. University of Texas–a major case involving admissions decisions at the University of Texas in which a white student alleges she was denied admission because of her race.  Several states, including California and Michigan, already do not allow race to be a factor in admissions decisions. Consider this perspective on what it might mean for higher education if race is no longer a consideration, and what a step backward such a decision would be when it comes to diverse student bodies.

Feel free to leave a comment with links to other perspectives, or provide your own.

Legal News

We have two stories that might interest you this week:

First, on Monday, the Supreme Court issued a key Fourth Amendment decision, holding that attaching a GPS tracking device to a vehicle constitutes a search and that authorities need a warrant to perform such a search in most cases.  What implications do you think this case will have for the future? In what other ways do you think current and evolving technology will alter what constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment? You can read the full decision here.

Second, in local news, a Lake County, Indiana judge made an example out of a juror who did not return for jury duty.  After the juror did not follow the judge’s instructions and return to court as he was supposed to, the judge forced him to stand in front of the courthouse with a sign that said he failed to appear.  Do you approve of this judge’s actions? Or are they too extreme?

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts!

Defining Professional Conduct

The Supreme Court will grapple with two cases this term concerning how to assess professional lawyerly conduct as it relates to plea deals (Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye).  What’s your opinion on the lawyer’s conduct in each case? Consider these cases in light of Padilla v. Kentucky–what will the resulting impact be?  How will public defenders in particular be affected and what steps will they have to take to comply with these decisions, depending on how they are decided?  Share your thoughts!