Justice Thomas and the 4th Amendment


Justice Thomas and his supporters like to repeat that they, and not liberals, uphold the original intent of the Constitution. In their worldview, any expansion (or even protection) of civil liberties goes beyond the vision of the founders. I wonder how these “originalists” can even pretend that Justice Thomas has the read the Constitution or the documents that preceded it, given his rationale for voting to allow a school district to strip search a 13 year old girl:

Justice Clarence Thomas, while agreeing that the school officials should have qualified immunity, dissented on the matter of the strip search, writing in his opinion that the decision “grants judges sweeping authority to second-guess the measures that these officials take to maintain discipline in their schools and ensure the health and safety of the students in their charge.” 

Thomas stated that searching Redding’s underwear was not a violation of the Constitution’s privacy protection because “school officials searched in a location where the pills could have been hidden.” 

Perhaps it’s just me, but wouldn’t the British governors and Europeans monarchs in general have justified searches of their subjects on exactly the same grounds? The 4th Amendment was a response to precisely this kind of heavy-handed intrusion into the lives of citizens.

An original interpreter of the intent of the Constitution? I think not, Justice Thomas.

Fortunately, the rest of the court (even Scalia) had the good sense to rule that the school’s actions were illegal.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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