The Online Freakout Over Yesterday’s Supreme Court Decisions


Getting the Supreme Court wrong. Supreme Court decisions can have a big impact, so it’s understandable that people react to them seriously and sometimes emotionally. But reactions to recent Court decisions have been a bit…extra. There are a lot of pundits and court watchers out there catastrophizing the results, often based on misunderstandings or misrepresentations of what the rulings actually said.

The most egregious new instance of this comes in response to a Court decision yesterday that cops can’t be sued under federal civil rights law for failing to read crime suspects their Miranda rights.

This is upsetting. We need more avenues of accountability for law enforcement, not fewer.

But the Court’s decision in no way means that cops aren’t still required to read people their Miranda rights. As my colleague Scott Shackford noted yesterday, “the Court isn’t overturning Miranda v. Arizona, the 1966 Supreme Court ruling that determined that it’s a violation of a suspect’s Fifth Amendment rights for police to interrogate him or her about a crime without informing them they have the right to remain silent and the right to request an attorney.”

Nor does the decision say that cops failing to read someone their Miranda rights will now have no consequences; evidence obtained before reading someone their rights will still be inadmissible at trial. And it certainly doesn’t mean that people no longer have a right to remain silent when faced with law enforcement questioning.

Alas, a lot of people with significant social media followings have been spreading the bogus ideas that the court just obliterated Miranda rights and a right to not self-incriminate entirely. For instance, progressive writer Charlotte Clymer tweeted: “SCOTUS just gutted Miranda rights — you know, that thing where law enforcement has to inform you of your civil rights upon being arrested? That’s gutted now.”

The Nation‘s Elie Mystal tweeted: “Folks, this basically overturns ‘the right to remain silent.'”

When called out by Reason‘s Billy Binion about the misrepresentation, Mystal replied that “if a cop cannot be punished for failing to read Miranda warnings, then Miranda warnings are no longer a thing they have to do.”

But that’s just wrong. Cops still have to read suspects their Miranda rights if they want to be sure suspects’ subsequent statements will be admissible in court.

Mystal continued to insist he was right by conjuring scenarios where someone confesses after being punched in the face by police. To be clear, the Supreme Court also did not say it’s OK for cops to punch suspects to elicit confessions.

As a palette cleanser, here’s a sane response to the decision:

And here’s the full decision itself.

Meanwhile, the court’s decision in a gun case (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen) is also drawing a lot of outrage. Justices held 6–3 that “the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home” (building on the District of Columbia v. Heller decision that the Second Amendment means a right to have a handgun inside one’s home) and said that a New York rule that anyone who wants to carry a concealed handgun in public must show “proper cause” is unconstitutional.

“In 43 States, the government issues licenses to carry based on objective criteria. But in six states, including New York, the government further conditions issuance of a license to carry on a citizen’s showing of some additional special need,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the majority’s opinion. “Because the State of New York issues public-carry licenses only when an applicant demonstrates a special need for self-defense, we conclude that the State’s licensing regime violates the Constitution.”

This makes sense. As Justin Amash put it, “a right that can be exercised only upon a showing of ‘proper cause’ to government is a right that has been infringed.”

Not everyone agrees with this, of course. That’s OK. People have a right to speak out about what they think the court is getting wrong. But it’s nuts how dramatically some critics of the court’s decision are reacting. For instance, here’s commentator Keith Olbermann:

Actor Ron Perlman tried to portray the decision as somehow racist. But many have attested that it’s the New York rule requiring people show cause to legally carry concealed weapons that is applied in discriminatory ways, with black people and other racial and ethnic minorities less likely to be granted a permit and more likely to be arrested for carrying without a permit. The National African American Gun Association and Black Guns Matter both submitted amicus briefs to the Court in favor of overturning the law. So did a group of public defenders, who said it disproportionately affected black and Hispanic New Yorkers.

The most common response has been to insist that this ruling will lead to more crime. For instance, New York City Mayor Eric Adams suggested the ruling would “allow New York to become the wild, wild west.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D–Conn.) tweeted that it would “unleash even more gun violence on American communities.” A Guardian headline declared that “The US supreme court just made America a more dangerous, violent place.”

But for this to make sense, you have to believe that violent criminals have just been waiting to commit crimes until they have the proper paperwork to carry in public. That’s silly. Permit rules don’t deter motivated people from committing bad acts, they just make it harder for law-abiding people to carry firearms.

For what it’s worth, a number of states don’t require any permit at all for concealed carry, most require a permit but will issue to anyone who meets the criteria (such as safety training and no domestic violence convictions), and only eight states—including New York—say authorities can deny permits even if people meet these requirements. It’s this last group that the new SCOTUS decision affects.

The evidence doesn’t clearly indicate that states with less strict laws are home to more violence. While some research purports to show this, other research says the opposite. “More than two dozen studies have been published, with results all over the map,” noted The Washington Post.

It’s also important to note that the SCOTUS decision doesn’t mean states can’t still require permits for concealed carry or that they can’t set some requirements for obtaining these permits. They just can’t leave it up to authorities to decide this based on subjective assessments rather than a basic checklist of criteria.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh pointed this out in a concurring opinion. He noted that “43 States employ objective shall-issue licensing regimes” which “may require a license applicant to undergo fingerprinting, a background check, a mental health records check, and training in firearms handling and in laws regarding the use of force, among other possible requirements.” These sorts of licensing schemes “are constitutionally permissible,” Kavanaugh explicitly stated.


FREE MINDS

Abortion and free speech. Before Roe v. Wade, it was common for states to ban publishing information about abortion services. I took a look at how this played out, ensnaring people for a range of activities including counseling, advertising, and pamphleteering. For instance:

It was 1971, and abortion was largely illegal in Florida. A young woman came to a Florida State University chaplain seeking advice about an unwanted pregnancy. So, Rev. Leo Sandon informed her of a clergy-backed abortion clinic in New York that would perform the procedure for $150.

Sandon soon found himself under investigation by State Attorney William Hopkins, who sought indictments against Sandon and Rev. Charles N. Landreth, an assistant minister at a Tallahassee Presbyterian church. Sandon and Landreth were part of a group called the National Clergy Consultation Service, whose members counseled women in states with abortion bans on how to get legal abortions out of state. Hopkins said their activities violated Florida’s prohibition on abortion advertising.

With Roe set to be overturned, we can expect to see a resurgence of battles over free speech about abortion—especially where the internet is concerned. Expect abortion to enter the debates about encryption, Section 230, search engine results, social media companies, and more.


FREE MARKETS

Juul fights back. After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that Juul does not have approval to sell its vaping devices and pods in the U.S., the company plans to fight back in court against the FDA’s decision.

While Juul has been selling its products in the U.S. for years, it did not have official FDA approval. After deliberating for almost two years over Juul’s application for approval, the FDA has now said the application “lacked sufficient evidence” that Juul products are safe for public health.

“We respectfully disagree with the FDA’s findings,” Juul’s chief regulatory officer, Joe Murillo, said in a statement. “[We] intend to seek a stay and are exploring all of our options under the FDA’s regulations and the law, including appealing the decision and engaging with our regulator.”


JANUARY 6 HEARINGS

The latest from the January 6 investigative committee includes more about former President Donald Trump’s attempts to invalidate the 2020 presidential election results, as well as the antics of some of his cronies.

“Trump hounded the Justice Department to pursue his false election fraud claims, striving in vain to enlist top law enforcement officials in his desperate bid to stay in power and relenting only when warned in the Oval Office of mass resignations,” reports the Associated Press.

Testimony from three Trump-era officials in the Department of Justice was heard at yesterday’s January 6 committee hearing:

They said they swept aside each demand from Trump because there was no evidence of widespread fraud, then banded together when the president weighed whether to replace the department’s top lawyer with a lower-level official eager to help undo the results.

All the while, Republican loyalists in Congress trumpeted the president’s claims — and several later sought pardons from the White House after the effort failed and the Capitol was breached in a day of violence, the committee revealed Thursday.

The hearing, the fifth by the panel probing the assault on the Capitol, made clear that Trump’s sweeping pressure campaign targeted not only statewide election officials but also his own executive branch agencies.


QUICK HITS

• Copyright law can’t justify outing anonymous social media users, a federal court ruled this week. “The decision…confirms that copyright holders issuing subpoenas under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act must still meet the Constitution’s test before identifying anonymous speakers,” explains the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

• “The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled for a Georgia death row inmate who wants to be executed by firing squad instead of lethal injection,” notes The Washington Post.

• This is insane:

• This is also insane: A woman wearing a crop top and jean shorts was issued a citation for indecent exposure.

Reason‘s Robby Soave looks at the Biden administration’s new Title IX rules.

• Kat Rosenfield calls out “Biden’s cowardly war” on treatment for transgender people that doesn’t conform to current progressive orthodoxy.

• Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s migrant-busing stunt has cost $1,400 per person transported.

• Sigh: Another lawmaker wants to regulate algorithms.

• And let’s end with a little good news for a change:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.