No place like home – The Ukiah Daily Journal
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled Caniglia v. Strom. Some commentators have called it “closing a loophole” in the Fourth Amendment (the amendment governing searches and seizures). Others said it will make it more difficult for police to respond to situations requiring emergency entry into the house. More importantly, the case seems to portend bigger things to come.
It happened in 2015 in Cranston, Rhode Island, where one night Edward Caniglia and his wife Kim engaged in a heated argument. At one point, he placed a loaded handgun on a table and said, “Shoot me now and finish this.” Instead, Kim spent the night in a motel and contacted the police to do a “social check” on her husband, fearing he was suicidal. The police accompanied her home the next day, spoke to Caniglia and convinced him to undergo a psychiatric screening. He agreed to leave only after promising not to seize his weapons. And of course, as soon as he left, that’s exactly what they did, walking into his house to grab two handguns.
Caniglia sued Cranston Police, but her case was dismissed by the Magistrates’ Court and Federal Court of Appeal, which cited what she called the ‘community custodial responsibilities’ of the police. that the police are often called upon to do, such as telling someone to turn off a stereo or calm a barking dog, or informing loved ones that someone has died in a car accident, or – like in the case of Caniglia – checking on someone’s well-being following a report from a neighbor or a concerned relative.
Surprisingly, in this ultra-partisan era, where 5-4 (and, with the newly reconstituted court, 6-3 Tory / Liberal splits are common), Clarence Thomas’ main view was unanimous. Unanimity is however possible, especially when the question to be decided is so narrow that none of the judges can disagree with it. The court mostly avoided the issue of emergency home entry for welfare screening; instead, in a four-page review that also reflects Thomas’ laconic approach to oral arguments, he focused on the police seizures of weapons as Edward rolled into the ambulance.
In fact, the opinion was so brief and the matter deemed so minor that it generated three concurring opinions. First, Chief Justice John Roberts (who is now old enough to claim Social Security) wrote a one-paragraph opinion stating his assumption that “a warrant to enter a house is not necessary.” . . when it is necessary to help people seriously injured or at risk of such injury. “
The only vote Roberts got in favor was from Judge Stephen Breyer – at 82, the oldest judge and court member voted “most likely to be found lying on his living room floor.” (This is why many Democrats are pushing for Breyer to resign so President Biden can appoint a replacement while Democrats still occupy the Senate – lest Mitch McConnell sit in Biden’s Supreme Court nominations due to of “ the long tradition of never confirming anyone when there is a Democrat in the White House. ”)
Judge Sam Alito drafted an agreement longer than Thomas’ main opinion “to highlight some important issues that the court does not decide.” That’s what we need, of course – a long explanation of what the court doesn’t do. His opinion primarily embodies a line from Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons,” “Hope I’m Getting Dark.” Most commentators seem to have no idea what the Alito Agreement is all about.
Finally, the accord of Justice Brett “Kegs” Kavanaugh told Chief Justice Roberts: “I will see your ‘need to help people'” and “I will present to you ’emergency heart relief situations. of the country “with some” (non-exhaustive examples) [to] illustrate this point. Kavanaugh gives the example of a woman who calls a hotline or 911, says she is considering suicide and has guns at home. Or an elderly man who unusually misses church services and doesn’t answer his phone. Kavanaugh asks and answers his own question, “Two officers are heading to the man’s home. They knock but receive no response. Can officers enter the house? Of course.”
What Kavanaugh doesn’t tell us, however, is how they can get in. Just hope the door is unlocked? Are you looking for a key under the rug? Call a locksmith?
Or can they smash the door with a hard kick or ram? What about that tank the LAPD once had?
Answers, Brett! We need answers!
Or maybe Clarence Thomas’ cryptic approach was the right one after all.
Frank Zotter, Jr. is an attorney for Ukiah.