Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Great Moments in Supreme Court Questioning
Various statements and exchanges pulled from the transcript (pdf) of today's argument:

JUSTICE SCALIA: Had it been the case that, as I recall, someone had -- well, students were popping ibuprofen, weren't they?

MR. WRIGHT: Yes, Your Honor.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I guess they might pop aspirin as well. I'm not aware that one gets a high on either one of those.
Mr. WRIGHT:...Once you had reason to suspect a student is possessing any contraband that poses a health and safety risk, then searching any place where that contraband may reasonably be found is constitutional, and --

JUSTICE SCALIA: Any contraband, like the black marker pencil that -- that astounded me. That was contraband in that school, wasn't it, a black marker pencil?

MR. WRIGHT: Well, for sniffing.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Oh, is that what they do?

MR. WRIGHT: It's a permanent marker.

JUSTICE SCALIA: They sniff them?

MR. WRIGHT: Well, that's the -- I mean, I'm a school lawyer. That's what kids do, Your Honor, unfortunately, Your Honor. But --

MR. WOLF: ...It sort of strains credulity to think that you would have loose pills concealed against a student's genitalia. That's what you'd have to think was the custom here. . . . What this school official did was act on nothing more than a hunch, if that, that Savana was currently concealing Ibuprofen pills underneath her underpants for other's oral consumption. I mean there's a certain ick factor to this.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Maybe I'm -- maybe I'm not articulating this. You keep focusing on the fact that it's unlikely that the pills would be concealed in her underpants. That doesn't go to the brassiere at all.
JUSTICE BREYER: It's not like you have any studies on this. But I mean, I hate to tell you, but it seems to me like a logical thing when an adolescent child has some pills or something, they know people are looking for them, they will stick them in their underwear.
JUSTICE BREYER: In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, okay? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.

Setting aside the weirdness, the clearly out-of-touch Justices seem on the verge of exploding any notion of student privacy. Only Justice Ginsburg seemed bothered by the idea of strip searching 13-year-olds. Scalia argued it wasn't even a strip search if she didn't have to get completely naked. Kennedy and Breyer said it just sounded like gym class to them. What's all this talk about psychological trauma?

More women on the bench, please.

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