Besides the United States’ loss to Germany in the World Cup, today was a good day for liberty. The Supreme Court ruled to restrict the power of government in three recent Supreme Court cases.
In the first case, Riley v. California, the petitioner Riley was charged in connection with a shooting after officers stopped him for a traffic violation and then seized and searched his cell phone. The Court ruled that “the police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cell phone seized from an individual who has been arrested.”
One precedent, Chimel v. California, requires that “a search incident to arrest be limited to the area within the arrestee’s immediate control, where it is justified by the interests in officer safety and in preventing evidence destruction.” The Court ruled that searching a cell phone does not fall within the Chimel conditions because cell phones do not impose a safety threat on officers and there is no threat of the arrestee destroying evidence on a cell phone.
The Court also noted that searching a cell phone is a far greater invasion of privacy than searching a wallet or a purse:
Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse. A conclusion that inspecting the contents of an arrestee’s pockets works no substantial additional intrusion on privacy beyond the arrest itself may make sense as applied to physical items, but any extension of that reasoning to digital data has to rest on its own bottom.
The next ruling, McCullen v. Coakley, struck down a Massachusetts law that made it a crime to knowingly stand on a public way or sidewalk within thirty-five feet of an entrance or driveway to an abortion clinic.
According to precedent:
Even in a public forum the government may impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place, or manner of protected speech, provided the restrictions “are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, that they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and that they leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.”
While the Court agreed that the law is content-neutral, it found that it is not narrowly tailored to serve the government interest of “public safety, patient access to healthcare, and the unobstructed use of public sidewalks and roadways.” The Court wrote that the law “burdened substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government’s legitimate interests.”
In the final case, National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, the court ruled that President Obama violated the Constitution in 2012 by appointing officials to the National Labor Relations Board during a three-day Senate break.
According to SCOTUS, “If a Senate recess is so short that it does not require the consent of the House, it is too short to trigger the Recess Appointments Clause.”
The decision will limit the power of future presidents in making recess appointments and call into question hundreds of decisions made by the board.
As the government grows and infringes on our individual liberty more and more, it’s nice to see the Supreme Court pushing back.