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Thread: Sexting Case Befuddles US Supreme Court, Justices are confused by technology

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    Default Sexting Case Befuddles US Supreme Court, Justices are confused by technology

    Sexting Case Befuddles Supreme Court: 'What's The Difference Between Email And A Pager?'

    The case of City of Ontario vs. Quon, which concerns 'sexting' via employer-issued pagers and bears major implications for employee privacy rights, headed to the Supreme Court this week.

    As we wrote here, the case concerns Sergeant Jeff Quon and three other plaintiffs, including Quon's wife and mistress, who were employed with the Ontario police department. The plaintiffs sued the Chief of police for reading sexually explicit messages that were sent via pagers provided by the department. A lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2008, and now the defendants have appealed their case, which headed for the Supreme Court.

    As the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in the case, it seemed that the justices required clarification on some of the technological details of the case.

    LawyersUSA's DC Dicta blog offers up some examples:
    The first sign was about midway through the argument, when Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. - who is known to write out his opinions in long hand with pen and paper instead of a computer - asked what the difference was “between email and a pager?”

    At one point, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked what would happen if a text message was sent to an officer at the same time he was sending one to someone else.

    “Does it say: ‘Your call is important to us, and we will get back to you?’” Kennedy asked.

    Justice Antonin Scalia wrangled a bit with the idea of a service provider.

    “You mean (the text) doesn’t go right to me?” he asked.

    Then he asked whether they can be printed out in hard copy.

    “Could Quon print these spicy little conversations and send them to his buddies?” Scalia asked.
    DC Dicta adds the even Quon's attorney had some "technical difficulties," stumbling to explain the intricacies of whether and how text messages could be deleted.

    In this case, it seems an intimate familiarity not only with constitutional law and legal precedents, but also with the ins-and-outs of WSPs and SMS, are crucial to the case. Yet it should be noted that the Justices' queries may not signal their confusion, but rather their efforts to clarify specific, key details pertaining to the 'sexting' exchange.

    Sexting Case Befuddles Supreme Court: 'What's The Difference Between Email And A Pager?'

    Oh geez. I think the Court might need to request some 'expert testimony' from their grandkids. That would clear things up in a jiffy.

    ETA- A few more anecdotes from the NY Times:
    Chief Justice Roberts said the combination of the two policies might be enough to give Sergeant Quon a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. “I think if I pay for it,” the chief justice said, “it’s mine and not the employer’s.”

    Neal K. Katyal, a deputy solicitor general, disagreed, saying that a low-level employee had no power to change a general policy. “The computer help desk cannot supplant the chief’s desk,” Mr. Katyal said.

    Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that a certain amount of personal texting was to be expected. “You want to let them have a few,” Justice Breyer said. “You need pizza when you are on duty.”

    Chief Justice Roberts warned against devising a legal rule that “would require people basically to have two of these things with them, two of whatever they are — the text messager or the BlackBerrys or whatever.”
    ------
    There was some confusion, too, about the technology at issue in the case, City of Ontario v. Quon, No. 08-1332.

    “What happens, just out of curiosity,” Chief Justice Roberts asked, “if he is on the pager and sending a message and they are trying to reach him for, you know, a SWAT team crisis? Does the one kind of trump the other, or do they get a busy signal?”

    Dieter Dammeier, a lawyer for Sergeant Quon, said he was not sure.

    Justice Kennedy suggested that the caller might get a recorded message.

    “He’s talking to the girlfriend,” Justice Kennedy said, and the caller “gets a voice message that says: ‘Your call is very important to us. We will get back to you.’ ”
    Justices Get Personal Over Privacy of Messages - NYTimes.com

    I'd like to tell Justice Roberts that having 'two of these things' is exactly what we kids do nowadays. I have my company phone, I have my private phone. Its just what you do. It makes sense.

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    The first sign was about midway through the argument, when Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. - who is known to write out his opinions in long hand with pen and paper instead of a computer - asked what the difference was “between email and a pager?”

    At one point, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked what would happen if a text message was sent to an officer at the same time he was sending one to someone else.

    “Does it say: ‘Your call is important to us, and we will get back to you?’” Kennedy asked.

    Justice Antonin Scalia wrangled a bit with the idea of a service provider.

    “You mean (the text) doesn’t go right to me?” he asked.

    Then he asked whether they can be printed out in hard copy.

    “Could Quon print these spicy little conversations and send them to his buddies?” Scalia asked.



    Roberts doesn't know the difference between e-mail & a pager and he's one of the youngest people, if not the youngest person, on the court.

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    Fuddy duddy justices aside, how is this even a case? Employer issued communication tools are always subject to search. There is no expectation of privacy - phones, computers, and who the hell has a pager any more?
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    Good grief. Do none of these people have cell phones? And I agree. The phone is company property. The guy should have done his sexting on his own phone.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sundance View Post
    Good grief. Do none of these people have cell phones? And I agree. The phone is company property. The guy should have done his sexting on his own phone.
    Exactly. Its like the legal system, and the highest court in the land, are completely out of touch with the norms that society has developed.

    Duh- everyone currently (or recently, as in this decade) employed knows that they could, at least in theory, be having their every convo, numbers dialed and texts sent logged on their work-issued phone. You have to be a f'in moron to conduct personal business on it- there is zero presumption of privacy. Maybe that's just because that's obvious, not in light of any laws, IDK. But frankly I only gave my family my work cell # in case of emergency. and if they called me on it, I'd hang up right away and tell them i'd call them back on my personal phone.

    And while there may be some constitutional rights issues mixed up in there.. they don't really make sense IMO. If I know you from work, I talk to you on the work phone. If I need a pizza at work, I order it on my work phone. Trust me, I'm more than happy to log work-related minutes to the employers' cell account, and not mine. Its not a hard distinction. And on the corolary, if a personal call comes on my work cell, I pitch it to my personal phone.

    ETA- If you REALLY want to have a Supreme Court-worthy debate on this issue, ponder this: whats the difference between privacy rights on company-provided cell phones vs. company-provided land lines? To me, that's the real heart of this debate, bc not every company gives out cell phones. So their employees can only be reached via landlines when at work. So whats the privacy expectation and right there?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmlok View Post
    [youtube]f99PcP0aFNE[/youtube]
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    i remember that. comedy gold. my friend and i kept saying it for months afterward.

    here's the remix:

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    Roberts is only in his fifties and been on the court for five years. It's not like he's a geezer.

    I hope Obama's appointees are more tech savvy.
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    Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that a certain amount of personal texting was to be expected. “You want to let them have a few,” Justice Breyer said. “You need pizza when you are on duty.
    Way to go, Breyer! Love this logic!

    By the way, I can't believe pagers still exist!
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