What If…? Legal Ramifications of AP v. the U.S.

Hello there again! For this post, let me explain the legal ramifications of both outcomes of the case I and my fellow justices have been working on. As you may remember, this is the one where the AP discovered their phones have been tapped into by the U.S. government and then sued due to invasion of privacy. If we rule against the AP, it could go against the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure of property and against random arrests. The Fourth Amendment also forms the basis for many laws that focus on that ideal, most notably laws surrounding wiretaps and other forms of surveillance. Ruling against the AP would also reinforce the legality, if not the constitutionality, of the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act actually allows surveillance of citizens who are or might become terrorists, among other things. You can learn more about it here.

If we rule for the AP, this would likely tighten current surveillance laws about who, how, and why in regards to who the government performs surveillance on. An example of a change might be that the vast majority of surveillance goes toward individuals and groups who already have a history of terrorism instead of just following everyone, even the ones without a criminal record. It might also provide more leniency towards journalists who might be covering a more sensitive story about terrorism. Given the research and sources that could go into those stories, it might look fishy if certain flagged search terms kept appearing in those phones and computers. So going case-by-case might be the better option if we vote in favor of the AP.



Let’s Lay Out The Facts

Hello again! The other Supreme Court justices and I have just received a new case between the US and the Associated Press. This is an interesting case – let me share some details of it with you. There was a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for AT&T customer Carolyn Jewel against the NSA for illegal and unconstitutional surveillance on personal communication. However, on Jan. 21, 2010, the case was dismissed because there wasn’t enough evidence. Then, on Dec. 29, 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reopened the case. An NSA whistleblower then stepped forward and said that the NSA was, in fact, purposefully spying on U.S. citizens. As a consequence, a defense contractor and former CIA employee named Edward Snowden gave The Guardian evidence that the US government has a mass internet surveillance program called PRISM. Just before Snowden released this, the Washington Post made a report that the Justice Department had secretly gotten two months of phone records for journalists and editors at the Associated Press. It’s safe to say the AP wasn’t thrilled, to say the least – they called it a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into news gathering and filed a suit against the government. So now it’s the job of me and my fellow justices to decide whether or not the AP is correct that this is an unconstitutional intrusion of privacy or if the government is correct that this must occur for national security reasons.

I have always fought for and believed in the right to privacy. In the 1991 case US Department of State v. Ray, I believed that the privacy of Haitian deportees outweighed the advantages of attorneys who wanted to see they were mistreated upon return to Haiti and any public benefit that may come out of it – I even wrote the majority opinion on that case. And in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, Humboldt County, I disagreed with the court’s decision to uphold the law that requires citizens to provide officers their names when asked and said that people’s identities are protected information. Based on my previous rulings, I am inclined to vote in favor of the Associated Press that the government has overstepped their bounds – and the Constitution.


The First Amendment Freedom We Could Live Without

I was recently asked which freedom in the first amendment of the Constitution I believe we could live without. As a refresher for those who don’t know, the first amendment talks about the freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. It was a tough decision to make, but I believe we could live without the right to assemble. I firmly believe in the right to free speech (with the exception of flag burning). Media and petitions often fall under what is considered speech and can give the people a voice so I believe it is important to keep freedom to petition and freedom of the press.  I also firmly believe that the church and the state should never mix so I would like to see freedom of religion kept rigidly in place.

Getting to Know Me

John Paul Stevens with fellow Supreme Court Justices, President Obama, and Vice-President Obama in 2009

John Paul Stevens with fellow Supreme Court Justices, President Obama, and Vice-President Biden in 2009

Hello there! My name is John Paul Stevens, and I was one of the longest-serving Supreme Court Justices after serving for 35 years. I was appointed by President Gerald Ford as a Justice in 1975 and retired recently in 2010. Prior to that, I was in the Navy during World War II and was a successful antitrust lawyer after the war. During my time as a lawyer, I was selected to take part in several councils for the House of Representatives and the US Attorney General’s Office. My success as a lawyer even got me appointed as a judge to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 1970 by President Richard Nixon.

Judicially, I was well-known for being extremely independent. I did have my tendencies either way, but I mainly kept it down the middle. When it comes to the First Amendment, I usually supported free speech. There were three main situations where I did not support it, though. For one, I didn’t support having government support for religious schools or having religion endorsed by public schools. I also didn’t believe in having obscenity and offensive materials protected under free speech in my early career, but I later changed my mind on this issue. I was lastly adamantly against burning the flag. In fact, the case I am most known for, Texas vs. Johnson, focused on just that. I so strongly disagreed with the ruling, which said Americans can burn the flag, to the point where I was extremely angry while reading my dissent aloud to those in the court. Otherwise, I was normally calm and was good at debating the issues at hand.



John Paul Stevens and the Constitution: the search for balance by Robert Judd Sickels

John Paul Stevens: an independent life by Bill Barnhart and Gene Schlickman

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