Reason: One Cheer for Stephen Breyer

Reason: One Cheer for Stephen Breyer by Damon Root:

Take the 2014 case Navarette v. California. At issue was an anonymous and uncorroborated 911 phone call about an allegedly dangerous driver, which led the police to make a traffic stop that led to a drug bust. According to the 5–4 majority opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, “the stop complied with the Fourth Amendment because, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the driver was intoxicated.” Law enforcement won big, and Breyer signed on.

The deficiencies of that judgment were delineated in a forceful dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia. “The Court’s opinion serves up a freedom-destroying cocktail,” wrote Scalia, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. “All the malevolent 911 caller need do is assert a traffic violation, and the targeted car will be stopped, forcibly if necessary, by the police.” That disturbing scenario, Scalia wrote, “is not my concept, and I am sure it would not be the Framers’, of a people secure from unreasonable searches and seizures.” Breyer apparently was untroubled by that Fourth Amendment–shredding scenario.

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