News Release

News Gatherers, Not Carrion Feeders

 Washington, DC (May 24, 1999) --

Media on Police Raids: Unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court today decided two companion cases which test the constant tension between individual rights and the public’s right to know, Hanlon v. Berger, 97-1927 and Wilson v. Lane, 98-83. In both of these cases, the Court held, police authorities who invite news media to observe the execution of search warrants violate the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of the aggrieved citizens who then brought suit. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the plaintiffs and the Fourth Amendment.

NACDL President Larry Pozner issued the following statement from his office in Denver today:

“It’s unseemly for the mainstream press to act like tabloid vultures, devouring whatever leftover scraps of citizens’ dignity might be left after a police raid. It is also a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment for law enforcement officers to invite the press along during searches of the homes of American citizens, as the Supreme Court announced today.

“I am incredulous, however, that the majority of the Supreme Court claims discovery of a ‘new rule,’ making the officers in these cases immune from responsibility. As Justice Stevens points out, every federal court to address the issue has found such media participation to violate the centuries-old principle that ‘the house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress,’ and not a newly-discovered right for future protection only. The officials responsible should be held accountable”

For the text of the Supreme Court opinion in Wilson v Lane: 

Click here to order a copy of NACDL's Amicus Brief in Hanlon v Berger.

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NACDL Communications Department

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.