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03/25/2021

Supreme Court Argument in Caniglia v. Strom
Michael Ramsey

On Wednesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Caniglia v. Strom, a case I flagged earlier as one of possible originalist interest.  At U.S. Today, David Gans (Constitutional Accountability Center) discusses the case here: In wake of Floyd, Taylor killings, should police have power to enter your home without a warrant?  An excerpt:

"When it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals,” as Justice Antonin Scalia put it in a 2013 ruling. If police can enter a person’s home without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing simply because they claim to be taking care of the community, the Fourth Amendment would be close to a dead letter. Our right to be secure would exist only at the whim of the police. 

The police officers who broke into the home of Edward Caniglia are urging the court, with the rather surprising support of the Biden administration, to bless a massive expansion in the power of police to enter the home. They claim that police officers may invade the home to protect the purported safety of the community if the police acted “reasonably.” ...

Embracing such an open-ended formula would grant police officers the unbridled discretion the Fourth Amendment was designed to prevent. The Fourth Amendment promised to end indiscriminate searches and seizures of the home. Caniglia tests whether the justices are willing to enforce the central idea at the heart of the Fourth Amendment: the need for strict limits on excessive police discretion. 

Yes, and as I commented earlier, I bet there's no originalist support for this doubtful exception.

The courts have a sorry history of (a) saying the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply as strictly to cars because, well, cars are different somehow (never mind that there were personal vehicles at the time of enactment, albeit without engines, and cars are obviously "effects" protected by the Amendment), and then (b) letting whatever exception is made up for cars extend to other situations in ways that obviously wouldn't have been accepted in the founding era.  Fortunately the Supreme Court has been cutting back on this practice, and Caniglia may be an opportunity to make some more progress in that direction.

Plus a great opportunity for an originalist-liberal alliance.