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What Price Order, Mr. Justice Scalia?

Copyright © 1999, 2004 by David E. Ross

From a news report about the case of Chicago vs Morales:

Scalia said Chicagoans may have decided to slightly restrict the freedoms of some people to congregate in certain neighborhoods, but this "minor limitation" was "a small price to pay for liberation of their streets."


Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble …

Amendment I, U. S. Constitution

Tell me, Mr. Justice Scalia, what part of no law do you not understand? The Constitution is about government, its powers and its limitations. Where the Constitution discusses the rights of people, it is about our rights to be free of the government's power. Nowhere does the Constitution address the rights of victims of crimes, let alone those who might become victims.

The Constitution does say that we all have the right to associate and meet with our friends and neighbors. This right is not limited in the Constitution to "nice" individuals or to persons. This right also applies to those whom the police suspect of criminal activity but whom have never been convicted of a crime. Given the recent news of police corruption in Los Angeles — corruption of power more than corruption of money — this last consideration is very important.

From a news report about the case of Illinois vs Wardlow:

He sees the officer and runs. Do you seriously contend that doesn't raise a suspicion?" Justice Scalia asked in an incredulous tone. Innocent people might be stopped and questioned, he acknowledged, but that is a "necessary part of maintaining safety on the streets.


The right of the people to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated …

Amendment IV, U. S. Constitution

Mr. Justice Scalia, your predecessors repeatedly ruled that the police may stop someone on the street without any warrant only if a crime has actually occurred. If we examine police actions near where I live — in the Los Angeles metropolitan area — you will see that fleeing the presence of the police is not evidence of a crime; it is evidence of wisdom.

In southern California, any rational person seeing the police arrive on the scene should leave promptly, without asking permission from the police. A true concern for "safety on the streets" requires that both the innocent and guilty flee.

Mr. Justice Scalia, if you were to personally act as you advocate, not only would you be wrong. You might even be dead wrong.

No, the Constitution does not give us the right to an orderly society. Democracy is disorderly. Over 200 years ago, the revolutionaries who founded our government had personal experience with the use of law enforcement to oppress the people. That is why the Bill of Rights addresses the rights of those accused of crimes.

Mr. Justice Scalia, you are asking us to pay too high a price to live in an orderly society. I am not willing to surrender my rights for the sake of order, especially my right to be free from an over-zealous police that might be out of control.

21 November 1999

The code of conduct for the federal courts broadly warns judges against conduct that "would create in reasonable minds … a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired."

Not only is Justice Scalia divorced from the reality of corrupt police, he is also divorced from judicial ethics.

Justice Scalia has been mentioned as the most likely candidate to succeed Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is expected to retire soon. Justice Scalia should instead be a candidate for impeachment!

8 March 2004

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