How Supreme Court Turned Conservative On Police Searches


The New York Times includes a criminal-justice case in a story illustrating how the U.S. Supreme Court is more conservative than it has been in decades, in large part because of Justice Samuel Alito’s replacing the retired Sandra Day O’Connor. A few weeks before she left the court, O'Connor heard arguments in a case about whether evidence should be suppressed because it was found after Detroit police officers stormed a home without announcing themselves. “Is there no policy protecting the homeowner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?” she asked. David Moran, a lawyer for defendant Booker Hudson, was confident that he had O'Connor's crucial vote.

Three months later, the court called for reargument, signaling a 4-to-4 deadlock after her departure. When the 5-to-4 decision was announced, the court not only ruled that violations of the knock-and-announce rule do not require the suppression of evidence, but also called into question the exclusionary rule itself. “My 5-4 loss,” Moran wrote later, “signals the end of the Fourth Amendment”– protecting against unreasonable searches – “as we know it.”

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