Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Roberts Dissents

Chief Justice Roberts has written his first dissent:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot search a home when one resident invites them in but another tells them to go away, provoking a strong objection from the new chief justice about the possible impact on battered women.

The 5-3 decision put new limits on officers who want to search for evidence of a crime without obtaining a warrant first.

If one occupant tells them no, the search is unconstitutional, justices said.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote his first dissent, predicting severe consequences for women who want police to come in but are overruled by abusive husbands.


Janet Randolph called police to the home in Americus, Ga., and - over her husband's objections - led the officer to evidence used to charge Scott Randolph with cocaine possession. That charge has been on hold while courts considered whether the search was constitutional.

The state of Georgia had the backing of the Bush administration and 21 other states that argued cooperation with law officers should be encouraged.


"The law acknowledges that although we might not expect our friends and family to admit the government into common areas, sharing space entails risk," Roberts wrote in a dissent that was almost as long as the main opinion.


In all, the eight members who participated in the case wrote six different opinions, swapping barbs. Conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas wrote separate dissents.

It's a slightly complicated case, but the law as previously understood makes more sense as a practical matter since the police were welcomed by a person with legitimate control of the premises. Hopefully the result will be that in similar cases in the future, warrants can be obtained quickly and searches still conducted.

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