Supreme Court Begins

With the change of season, the US Supreme Court swings into session this week.  A statutory tradition, the first Monday in October is the beginning of the new term, which holds issues of abortion, birth control, and race, among other matters. The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the US Supreme Court, and it got organized in 1790, but not until 1935 did the head of our third branch of government finally had its own building. While the Constitution provided for the Judicial Branch, it did not give it a place to reside.  Thus for centuries the high court remained a homeless branch of government, sheltered in whatever municipal structure was available until William Taft pushed for a standalone ceiling of justice.  (Taft, non-coincidentally, was the only President also to serve as Chief Justice.)  The cornerstone of the high court was set in 1932 by Herbert Hoover, and the building opened in 1935. This year the Supreme Court celebrates 80 years of justice under its own roof.   Read More

Supreme Court Starts

The first Monday in October is opening day for the US Supreme Court.  This term their docket includes disputes of facial hair, geography, juror honesty, search and seizure, redistricting, Facebook threats, and pregnancy and religious discrimination.  That is simplifying; fortunately they have a place of their own to examine the details.  While the Constitution provided for the Judicial Branch of government, it did not give this branch the luxury of an independent address. The Supreme Court has only had its own courthouse for less than a century.  While the Constitution detailed the set up for Legislative and Executive Branches, it did not say the Supreme Court should have its own bar.  Thus for centuries the high court remained a homeless branch of government, sheltered in whatever municipal structure was available until William Taft pushed for a standalone ceiling of justice.  (Taft, non-coincidentally, was the only President also to serve as Chief Justice.)  The cornerstone of the high court was set in 1932 by Herbert Hoover, and the building opened in 1935. Read More

Illegal Sniff & Seizure?

The Supreme Court has yet to decide if drug-sniffing dogs can go door to door sniffing for more than Halloween treats.  But the justices have said yes to dogs at traffic stops that turn into drug stops, over-ruling a Florida Supreme Court decision. A dog named Aldo was at a traffic stop.  The police officer used Aldo’s signal as probable cause to search the vehicle, which revealed meth lab paraphernalia.  The Florida Supreme Court had ruled that this was an illegal sniff and seizure, based on the spotty qualifications of Aldo—was Aldo properly trained to sit, stay, and sniff for methamphetamines, and what was his margin of error?  The Supreme Court justices, however sided with the dog. Read More

The Problems with a Mobile Meth Lab

Everyone wants convenience when it comes to drugs.  We have a Walgreens on every corner where there is not a CVS.  Setting up a mobile meth lab, however, poses special problems—mostly because it is illegal, but also because it is subject to detection by drug-sniffing dogs. The advantages to setting up illegal drug production are that you do not need a business permit or have to join the chamber, plus there is no FDA approval or worries over animal testing, except that you are subject to the nose of a canine officer. Right now the US Supreme Court is considering a citizen’s rights against illegal sniff and seizure at a person’s home or even walking a dog around a traffic stop.  If you go to an airport—even if you do not fly—you are consenting to a sniff test. Opening a mobile meth lab is challenging, especially with law enforcement dogging you.  Besides the obvious health hazards of running such an operation, sampling your product, and/or distributing it, the stress alone may prompt you to seek another line of work.  One of the most effective ways to avoid a drug conviction is not to do drugs, sell them, or process them. Read More

Justice Gone to the Dogs?

The Supreme Court is scheduled on Halloween to hear arguments regarding the use of drug-sniffing dogs.  Does a drug-sniffing dog brought to the front door of a suspect’s home amount to a search?  What are the qualifications and reliability of a drug-sniffing dog at a traffic stop and a warrantless search where meth lab ingredients are found? While the definition of “service animal” falls into a gray area (except with the FAA’s prohibition against spiders on airplanes), what is in the air for drug-sniffing dogs is to be determined in the Supreme Court.   Read More

Justice Under Construction: Supreme Court in Session

Justice Under Construction:  Supreme Court in Session Justice is under construction…literally right now with the west façade of the Supreme Court Building in Washington D. C. undergoes continuing repair and preservation.  On the inside as well, the highest court in the land is making repairs and working on the preservation of justice.   The Supreme Court term begins on the first Monday in October, which means it started yesterday.  In a single term, it receives about 10,000 petitions.  Some of the cases projected for this term include matters concerning racial preference in college admissions, human rights abuses, drug-sniffing dogs (two cases coming out of Florida), fighting terrorism, gay marriage, voting rights, and DNA sampling. Read More