Once such moment was 21 years ago, in 1991, when the robed shysters of the Supreme Court “interpreted” the plain meaning of the Fourth Amendment to mean its opposite.
This was the year of Michigan State Police v. Sitz, the case that decided the legality of random roadside sobriety checkpoints on the basis of “compelling state interest,” as lead shyster and Badge Licker in Chief William Rehnquist put it.
Basically, the ends justify the means. “Getting drunks off the road” – anyway, anyhow – is what matters. Not the Constitution. Hence, screw the rule of law. Just git ‘er done, as they say.
But the Fourth Amendment does not have qualifiers – or exceptions. It reads simply:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Note especially the part about “shall not be violated.” That’s pretty strident – and pretty plain – language. There’s no room for “interpretation” – just perversion and rationalization, the means by which our robed shysters traduce the legal protections they were charged by oath to affirm and uphold.
Men such as Rehnquist are far from stupid, which makes them all the more loathsome for the tyranny they rain down upon us.
You can argue until you’re blue in the face about the Importance of Getting Drunks of the Road (or Getting Terrorists – or whatever it maybe). That is not the question – and Rehnquist, et al knew it.
The question is whether the Constitution is the law of the land – or not. And decisions such as the one rendered in Sitz prove that it is not. The law is the whim of the state and its “interpreters” – and, of course, its enforcers.
The Constitution’s protections do not provide exceptions for any reason – period – as noted in the Sitz dissent written by William Brennan: “…stopping every car might make it easier to prevent drunken driving… (but this) is an insufficient justification for abandoning the requirement of individualized suspicion.”
Exactly. There is no sufficient justification – other than specific, individualized suspicion – if the Fourth means what it plainly says.
Not that it matters.
And now, we reap the whirlwind.
The Sitz decision established the case law precedent – which is the real law of the land, as opposed to the Constitution. Ask any lawyer. What carries legal force is what the various Deeciders say the law is, not what the Constitution says the law is.
Endless ratiocinations – “compelling state interest” being one – provide the basis for Talmudic parsing by a profession dedicated to making the intelligible unintelligible, as well as arbitrary – precisely the opposite of the intent of the men who wrote our now-inoperative founding documents.
What made America unique in all the world – a country in which the individual’s rights were explicit and sacrosanct, without qualification, period – is gone. Has been gone, for many years now.
The case law precedent established by cases such as Sitz paved the way for the random gropes we’re now subject to at airports – on precisely the same basis of the (supposed) Greater Good, as defined by the robed shysters.
But perhaps the most depressing aspect of this is not the shitting all over the Constitution by the men charged to preserve and protect it. Rather, it is the slavish badge-licking endorsement of the same by “freedom loving” Americans. If the response to previous columns on the subject is indicative, there are large numbers of people out there who either don’t understand the Constitution or (worse) just don’t give a damn about it.
Give them some justification – some excuse – and they will gleefully do a jig on the document.
I’ve had several back-and-forths with one of these people, who constantly talks about the need to “get drunks off the road.” His mentality can’t connect the dots – or just doesn’t want to. He believes that because he doesn’t drink, he’s got “nothing to worry about.” But when I try to point out to him that drinking and driving is a sideshow, that once random and arbitrary laws are enacted – once the Constitution’s (ex) protections become inoperative or qualified at whim by the powers-that-be – we are all vulnerable by definition, because that is what arbitrary and random mean. It is akin to turning loose a driverless car with its gas pedal jammed to the floorboards. It can strike anyone – and “anyone” may just be you.
The founders wrote the Bill of Rights to put a driver behind the wheel. To make sure the “car” stayed on course and did not run off onto the sidewalk, leaving mayhem in its wake.
Oh, I know. The Clovers out there will huff that mayhem is not created by random checkpoints – or TSA gropes. Just a temporary indignity and minor inconvenience for the Greater Good.