This week marked two major victories for the civil liberties of American citizens. Supreme Court decisions on public sector unions and digital privacy reminded the country what the purpose of the Court always has been: to protect and defend the constitutional rights of the American public. The Justices this week ruled on Janus v. State, County, and Municipal Employees, defending the First Amendment rights of the citizens of this country by forbidding public unions from collecting nonmember dues. They also ruled on Carpenter v. United States, protecting civil liberties from a dangerous interference of digital privacy protections. Finally, this week we celebrate the legacy of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the closest the Supreme Court has come to a libertarian member, as he announced his retirement on Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court hit at the enormous power of public sector unions by denying them the right to collect dues from nonmembers. Mark Janus, an employee of the government from Illinois, fought against the mandatory collection of fees by the unions, noting the fact that because unions are so politicized, he believes it to be a violation of his right to free speech to have to pay such fees. The Court agreed, calling the practice unconstitutional and putting an end to it. The power of public sector unions in this country is massive, with the power to force individual workers to fund them to the power to sway election results by being so liberal. No longer will this infringement of constitutional rights be allowed to continue, and no longer will government workers be forced to pay into organizations that they disagree with on an ideological basis. The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, lamented that the decision will hurt American workers. But there is nothing quite so harmful to American workers as the forceful association of their money with a hyper-political organization that they disagree with, and the Janus ruling will return their constitutional liberties back to them. American workers have won.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court delivered yet another win for civil liberties. Timothy Carpenter was the suspect in a string of robberies in the Detroit area, and notably, police seized his cell phone records to prove his guilt. While the Fourth Amendment requires the issuance of a warrant before a search and seizure can take place, no such warrant was ever issued in the trial against Carpenter. Instead, police went around the warrant issue by appealing to the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which requires telecommunications companies to share data with the government when it is materially relevant. But an appeal to the SCA is exactly what it sounds like: a warrantless, illegal search made possible by taking advantage of the fact that privacy protections have not kept up with the fast pace of technological innovations. On Friday, the Supreme Court put a stop to it, arguing that individuals have an expectation of privacy in their cell phone records. This is an extremely important ruling, as the powers of the surveillance state increase to the monitoring of individuals through their mobile devices. The Court said no; there is little difference between requiring a warrant before entering someone’s home and requiring one before looking at an individual’s cell phone records. The Carpenter ruling is a huge win for the civil liberties of American citizens, and the right to privacy that is such a cornerstone of the libertarian movement.
As the Court ends a week of strong, passionate judgments, Justice Anthony Kennedy retires. Justice Kennedy, usually described by the media as the swing vote, is arguably one of the most libertarian justices the Court has ever had. Kennedy was a passionate defender of American constitutional freedoms. In 2008, Kennedy helped to strike down the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns in the landmark case of District of Columbia v. Heller, protecting the Second Amendment rights of American citizens. He defended First Amendment protections in 2010 in a second landmark case of Citizens United, upholding the constitutional freedom of free speech. While Kennedy’s rulings have not all been according to the doctrines of libertarianism, his stances on affirmative action programs, gun control, and free speech made him a great supporter of the libertarian movement. We can only hope that whomever President Trump chooses to replace him will protect individual freedoms and liberties as passionately as Anthony Kennedy has tried to do during his tenure on the Court. The citizens of this country are better for Justice Kennedy’s presence on the highest court in the land.
The Supreme Court this week has ruled passionately in favor of the individual freedoms and liberties that America was founded on, aided by the libertarian views of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. These rulings set a great precedent for the future of the Court’s decisions with a new member, and an even greater defense of the Constitution in the years and decades to come.
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