- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A key battleground in the fight over Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. has become his ruling last year in favor of police officers who searched a 10-year-old girl during a raid on a suspected drug house.

Liberals accuse Judge Alito of generally supporting police searches of children and frame his dissent in Doe v. Groody as part of a broader hostility toward “privacy rights.”

An ad released last week by a coalition of liberal groups opposed to Judge Alito cited the case as prime example in a warning that his confirmation would thrust the Supreme Court to the right.

“The right wing has already taken over the West Wing,” the announcer says in the ad, which is running in targeted states and on certain cable-TV networks. “Don’t let them take over your Supreme Court.”

Judge Alito’s defenders say the liberal attacks oversimplify the case to the point of dishonesty and distort his ruling. Judge Alito’s dissent, they say, was not a policy statement supporting the strip-search of children, but rather an opinion saying that officers were immune to a civil lawsuit filed by the drug suspect over the search of his daughter.

The primary question in Doe v. Groody when it came before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit was whether police officers erred in thinking that a search warrant for a suspected drug den extends to all occupants of the premises at the time of the raid.

“I share the majority’s visceral dislike of the intrusive search of John Doe’s young daughter, but it is a sad fact that drug dealers sometimes use children to carry out their business and to avoid prosecution,” Judge Alito explained in his opinion. “I know of no legal principle that bars an officer from searching a child [in a proper manner] if a warrant has been issued and the warrant is not illegal on its face.”

Supporters have said that detractors have tried portraying Judge Alito’s position as somehow dangerous to children, while they think his decision more effectively rescues children from the dangerous situations that drug dealers often put them in.

The television ad by IndependentCourt.org was distorted enough, according to Fox News, that the network declined to air the commercial without changes. A spokesman for the liberal group responded by saying that Fox News “doesn’t get to edit our ads” and declined to make any of the recommended changes.

The sponsors of the ad also note that the two judges in the majority of the three-judge panel were Republican nominees, including former appeals court Judge Michael Chertoff, who is now President Bush’s secretary of homeland security.

Mr. Chertoff and Judge Thomas L. Ambro wrote in their opinion: “A warrant must be read in commonsense, nontechnical fashion. But it may not be read in a way that violates its fundamental purposes. As the text of the Fourth Amendment itself denotes, a particular description is the touchstone of a warrant.”

In the end, the majority ruled that for officers to expand the scope of a warrant beyond the specific parameters would effectively render warrants meaningless and “transform the judicial officer into little more than the cliche rubber stamp.”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide