Monthly Archives: December 2010

E-MAIL gets 4th Amendment Protection

The Sixth Circuit United States Court of Appeals, Tuesday, ruled that e-mail is legally protected by the Fourth Amendment. It determined in a 3-0 vote that users still had a reasonable expectation of privacy online, that e-mail was similar to traditional communication and thus that the government still needed a search warrant to intercept and read e-mail.

The Court stated:

Given the fundamental similarities between email and traditional forms of communication [like postal mail and telephone calls], it would defy common sense to afford emails lesser Fourth Amendment protection…. It follows that email requires strong protection under the Fourth Amendment; otherwise the Fourth Amendment would prove an ineffective guardian of private communication, an essential purpose it has long been recognized to serve…. [T]he police may not storm the post office and intercept a letter, and they are likewise forbidden from using the phone system to make a clandestine recording of a telephone call–unless they get a warrant, that is. It only stands to reason that, if government agents compel an ISP to surrender the contents of a subscriber’s emails, those agents have thereby conducted a Fourth Amendment search, which necessitates compliance with the warrant requirement….

Applying the Fourth Amendment sets the first legal precedent of its sort and could prevent the government from any further attempts to snoop civilian e-mail without a warrant.

Read the opinion here!

Student Blawg – No Pledge = Jail

In October of this year, Danny Lampley, a Mississippi attorney, refused to say the “Pledge of Allegiance” in a Mississippi courtroom.  The presiding judge held Mr. Lampley in contempt of court and put him in jail for his actions.  Mr. Lampley is well known for his stance on free speech and defending others on their 1st amendment rights; and not reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” in a court room.   The statement Mr. Lampley made to a magazine was, “I don’t have to because I’m an American”, seems to be the real reason why he pulled this stunt.  There was no other explanation as to why he does not want to say the “Pledge of Allegiance”.  In 1943 The Supreme Court ruled that schoolchildren couldn’t be forced to say the pledge, a decision widely interpreted to mean no one could be required to recite the pledge. In 1954, the words “under God” were added to the pledge, because congress wanted to separate the United States from other godless countries. This has been challenged in the courts since “The Pledge of Allegiance” has been created. (  This article explains more about Danny Lampley and Judge Talmadge Littlejohn, their ideas and beliefs.  This article is where I got the above information on the Supreme Court.  ( this website gives a more explanation on children reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” and that a father tried to sue a school district in California, because they required all children first thing in the morning to recite the pledge; however, children can decline from this if they wanted to.

Did this violate his First Amendment right of free speech?

Mr. Lampley’s 1st amendment rights were violated because:

1.  The 1st amendment states:  “Freedom of expression consists of the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the implied rights of association and belief. The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government.” (websource Cornell University.

2.  The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech. A less stringent test is applied for content-neutral legislation. The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. For more on unprotected and less protected categories of speech see advocacy of illegal action, fighting words, commercial speech and obscenity. The right to free speech includes other mediums of expression that communicate a message.  The level of protection speech receives also depends on the forum in which it takes place”.( websource Cornell University)

Therefore, when the judge had Danny Lampley put in jail for not reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance he violated Mr. Lampley’s 1st amendment rights.  However, a judge can demand respect in his courtroom and he can dictate how he would like his court room to be ran.  If a lawyer is either conducting business or just visiting any court room, he or she should always show respect to the judge by following his instructions; and if the lawyer does not want to follow the instructions he or she should give an explanation as to why they do not have to follow the judge’s instructions.

Student Blawg – What Price Freedom of Speech?

by Amy Hopkins

Protesting at Military funerals.  Was this what our founding fathers had in mind when they wrote our first amendment rights?  The Supreme Court is hearing a case about whether protesting at a funeral is protected by the first amendment.  Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and his congregation believe that American casualties of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are God’s way of punishing America for upholding rights of homosexuals.  Matthew Snyder, a Marine Corp lance corporal was killed in Iraq in 2006; when his family had a funeral for him, members of Westboro Baptist Church picketed at his funeral.  Their signs said things like “God Hates America” and they blame his death on what they call “the sins of America” and of his divorced parents.  (There is no indication that Matthew Snyder was gay, the church just feels that his death is part of the plan for God to punish America.)  Phelps was sued by Albert Snyder, Matthew Snyder’s father, for intentional infliction of emotional distress; Snyder won the case initially but it was overturned at the U.S. Court of Appeals, and now it is before the Supreme Court.  Peaceful protests have long been part of the landscape of America; will the Wesboro Baptist Church’s protests be protected?

The Court must now decide the issue of right to free speech versus right of privacy.  The American Civil Liberties Union has sided with Phelps, stating that the protesters were not on private property, so their free speech should not be restricted.  The ACLU believes that protecting our 1st amendment rights at any cost is the main priority.  If the Supreme Court is able to restrict the 1st amendment rights, then it is open to question what other rights they will be able to restrict.  The 1st amendment is the most basic of our rights as American citizens and if those are able to be compromised, then so is the meaning of what it is to be American.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars are behind Mr. Snyder, the VFW feels that bereaved families have a right to grieve in private.  Most people agree that Pastor Phelps’s message is hateful and disrespectful, and his delivery method is even worse.  Will the Supreme Court be able to rule in favor of Snyder while still upholding free speech?  And if the Court rules in favor of Phelps and his church will it serve as a justification for people to hate and bully homosexuals as in the instance of Tyler Clementi who jumped off of the George Washington Bridge after his roommate at Rutgers posted a video on the Internet of him kissing another man?  Should the U.S. government protect free speech at all costs?  These are the questions that the Supreme Court will have to answer.