Case Journal 3 (William Rehnquist)

In my time as Supreme Court Justice, I’ve influenced many cases about the relationship between the federal government and state governments. For example, during United States v. Lopez, I wrote the majority opinion about the government’s Gun-Free School Zone Act, saying it was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Possessing a gun isn’t in any way related to economics, meaning the government couldn’t have such oversight on a state matter. In United States v. Morrison, I also delivered the final opinion on the matter, stating that the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 could not be applied from a federal level to a state level through either the Commerce Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment. When Congress tried to regulate the labor market of state employees in 1974, I ruled in National League of Cities v. Usery that Congress couldn’t do that, again, through the Commerce Clause.

I’ve also worked on cases involving the Establishment Clause, such as Mueller v. Allen. A law passed in Minnesota allowed people to deduct any expenses related to their children’s elementary and secondary schooling – including parochial schools – from their taxes. The majority opinion, which I wrote, stated that since the law affected all schools and not just religious ones, it did not violate the Establishment Clause. Another case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, related to the Ohio government providing scholarships in the form of vouchers to students in the Cleveland area, and these vouchers could go to students at both public and private institutions, including religious-affiliated ones. The majority opinion I wrote stated that it did not violate the Establishment Clause since it is up to the individual if it applies to religious institutions, not the government.

We’re about to hear United States v. Associated Press, and the ramifications of the decision the court makes would set a new precedent on the meaning of privacy weighed against national security. If we decide in favor of the United States, it would broaden the umbrella of situations that could be justified by a need for national security. Privacy of individual citizens would be deemed less important across the board, especially with how pervasive of a topic privacy is with the creation of the Internet and smartphones. If we decide in favor of the Associated Press, the privacy of citizens would be reinforced, even in the face of national security. This would also call for an investigation in the National Security Agency’s practices, especially regarding PRISM.


• Your legal opinion of the ramifications of the case, depending on which way it is decided

Ethical Challenge 4

The Internet has brought the world a multitude of avenues to obtain information, making the getting of information more convenient and easy than ever before. Additionally, it has made the creation of information just as easy. This double-sided sword means that anyone–journalists included–has to screen their sources more comprehensively than before. In some cases, it can be extremely difficult to validate the authenticity of a source. But the internet has its fair share of obvious red herrings, as well.

Take the satirical article about Kei Nishikori done by Media Mass. ESPN’s Chris Fowler had used that satirical article, taking it as fact. He claimed that Nishikori was the highest-paid tennis player in the world, a “surprise to Roger Federer fans.” Fowler goes on to say, “according to published reports,” implying there were other reports that corroborated Media Mass’s satire. Simply looking at the the original article on Media Mass cries out a humorous need for fact checking. “It’s been a rough year for the tennis player, but at least he has his millions of dollars to ease the pain,” isn’t a particularly professional lead, but it does lead the reader in humorously questioning the validity of the article.

Aside from the lead, almost every little fact begs to be googled, and most don’t need much digging to confirm or deny if it’s true. Googling “Fat Nishikori,” “From Kei with Love” or even “Kei Nishikori CoverGirl” will yield results that could mildly be described as questionable. The single fact that might have needed some actual digging would be confirming if Nishikori made more than $20 million over the second-highest paid tennis player, and even then, the truth behind the satire would come to the computer screen’s light very quickly.

The Huffington Post interview with Jesus Christo on Twitter is a different story. Granted, the source’s name on Twitter is questionable enough, but his name could have been anything, something more believable. Social media in general has made it incredibly easy to pretend to be other people without any form of validation. Conducting interviews over social media seems like a plan that should be labeled “what to do after the last resort fails,” and even then, giving up almost seems like a better option. Making contact over social media is one thing, but it should be used to request an interview, not conduct one. Face-to-face would obviously be ideal, but it’s always possible that someone on Twitter doesn’t live nearby.

At the very least, a phone interview or, as a last resort, an email interview request would have been better than conducting it over social media. although it would be just as easy to continue the Jesus Christo facade over email or the phone, it creates more of a sense of authenticity. Furthermore, I would ask him if there would be anyone to talk to that could corroborate his alibi; was he really there at the shooting? If I’m the only source for any story, I could easily be the first man to have stepped foot on Pluto. When finding sources online, validating their story through other people with authority should always be done, and even then, it should be done with a grain of salt. Information obtained online should be labeled as such so all readers know that there is a possibility of it being a hoax.

Case Journal 2: US v. AP (William Rehnquist)

This case starts with the Washington Post revealing the Department of Justice’s use of the PRISM program in collecting private information of reporters and editors of The Associated Press. A previous court case, Jewel v. NSA, set a sort of precedent in how the government has treated cases involving invasions of privacy. The government claimed that it had to be done for national security purposes, forcing the invasion of privacy charge to be dropped. Jewel appealed to higher courts, claiming that surveillance issues need to be dealt with under the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, meaning its violation of the First and Fourth Amendments need to be considered.

I’ve always been more of an advocate for states’ rights, and I usually see no reason for the government to pervade a multitude of aspects in life. For example, in U.S. v. Lopez in 1995, I ruled against a federal act that made it illegal to carry a gun into school zones. The government shouldn’t have the right to affect something so specific. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean I’m anti-government. I don’t jump at every accused violation of the First Amendment. I analyze everything and am fair with my judgments.


Ethical Challenge 2

At the end of last year, Sony Pictures was the victim of a hacking severe enough to cause them to officially cancel “The Interview” for a short time. Reporters around the nation wrote stories about the event to varying degrees. Ethically speaking, it isn’t wrong to publish a story stating that it happened. People would want to know if a hyped-up movie is being cancelled, and furthermore, they want to know why It’s being cancelled. Writing that Sony was hacked answers that question, but furthermore, the event itself is newsworthy and memorable.

It would be wrong, however, to publish any of the information that the hackers made public. The information that the hackers obtained came into their hands illegally is surely one argument. Had Sony published that information, it would be okay to publish. But the reality is not the case. Additionally, journalists should always be aware of what they publish, how it affects others, and how others perceive it. Publishing such sensitive information could harm Sony employees.

Secondly, the information doesn’t serve a particular purpose other than a sense of fleeting curiosity. No one can argue that the Pentagon Papers had no social importance, but it’s fairly easy to argue that people don’t need to know some Sony executives’ passwords, phone numbers, and bank account details. Publishing such information doesn’t feed to the watch dog metaphor for journalists but more the nosy paparazzi looking for any story to publish as “clickbait.” “Clickbait” stories aren’t inherently unethical (at least, in the grand scheme of things), but the fact that they involve such personal, illegally obtained information makes it far more unethical.

William Rehnquist, Case Journal 1

People have called me the “Lone Ranger” or “Lone Dissenter,” but I’m perfectly fine with that. I have always had the guts to stand for my own opinions rather than resign myself to siding with a majority. I’ve had controversial opinions in my time in the court, one of the more famous ones being my views on federalism. I’m a staunch believer in states’ rights for most issues. For example, in United States v. Lopez, 1995, I helped overturn a federal act that made carrying a gun in a school zone. It’s unconstitutional because that’s a kind of law for the state of California to decide, not the federal government. I became the chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1986.

In the upcoming case, AP v. United States, the Associated Press is challenging the government’s right to invade AP’s editors’ and reporters’ privacy and obtain their telephone records. They allege that it is a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into news gathering. The ongoing case of Jewel v. NSA could hold some precedent, despite it not being settled. The government frequently alleged that Jewel’s allegations–similar to the AP’s in terms of privacy invasion–involved “state secrets,” wanting to dismiss the case with that. It was pointed out, however, that the government couldn’t use that excuse regarding electronic surveillance after the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The AP case is similar to the Jewel case. People had their private information, such as phone call logs, taken by the government without any warrant. The allegations made by both AP and Jewel are only reinforced by recent NSA whistleblowers, most prominently Edward Snowden. What has happened so far in the Jewel case could provide a hypothetical framework for what is to come in AP v. United States.


Ethical Challenge 1

The Rolling Stone’s rape case was a huge, sensationalized story about the supposed rape culture in the University of Virginia. That issue of the magazine sold out over the hype of the story broken by Sabrina Erdely about the gang rape of Jackie, who was assaulted in a fraternity house as a freshman. After its release, however, other groups investigated the facts of the case and how it was conducted. It was found that no other sources corroborated many facts in Jackie’s story, and Erdely didn’t get any other sources to talk. The editor still chose to run the story, wholeheartedly believing in the story.

Although the editor says the responsibility lies on Rolling Stone’s as a whole, I’d argue that the fault lies on the editor himself. Will Dana, who issued an apology on the article after the fact, should have attempted to check the story in the first place. He should have asked Erdely how many sources she talked to, how reliable they all were, and other questions to screen the validity of the story, especially with how sensitive and important the story would be.

Despite the sensitive topic of dealing with a rape victim, it’s still the journalist’s responsibility to make sure they’re reporting an unbiased truth. People go to the news for what really happened, not for what one person believes happens. I would have found a way to contact other sources willing to talk about this story to compare their facts of the story to Jackie’s.