April 21, 2009

Justice Breyer's School Boy Tale

How about a little humor courtesy of Justice Breyer.  It came today during oral argument in the case of Safford United School District #1 v. Redding.  The issue in the case is "whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits public school officials from conducting a strip search of a student suspected of possessing and distributing a prescription drug on campus in violation of school policy."  Justice Breyer got a bit tripped up during one of his infamous stream-of-consciousness hypotheticals.

"Breyer was attempting to put a hypothetical question to the girl’s lawyer about how common it is for students to be partially undressed while at school, such as when they are changing for gym class.  But, as the transcript shows, it all went a bit wrong.

“So what am I supposed to do? In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, okay? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.”

He stopped in his tracks as the entire courtroom dissolved into laughter. Then he attempted to dig himself out:

“Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. I was the one who did it? I don’t know.”

Whether or not the question was purely hypothetical remains unknown."

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