Monday, November 19, 2012

#323 / The Heisler Moot Court

On Friday, November 17th, I attended the 2012 Heisler Moot Court, sponsored by the Monterey College of Law. The Moot Court is named in honor of Francis Heisler (1895-1984), a crusading civil rights attorney, and of his wife Friedy Heisler (1900-1997). Friedy Heisler was a psychiatrist and a civil libertarian herself. Francis Heisler is pictured. Both Francis and Friedy Heisler were long time residents of Monterey County.

This was the twenty-sixth year of the Heisler Moot Court. Law students from the Monterey College of Law argued before a three-judge panel comprised of two currently-sitting appellate court justices, and a retired superior court judge. The question presented focused on Fourth Amendment freedoms. Can governmental authorities properly use cell phone tracking, predictive location programs, and drone surveillance techniques to spy on University students, and to use the information so obtained to break up incipient student protests, and to convict the students so identified of various crimes related to "public disturbance?"

Clearly, the Heisler Moot Court addresses what are truly contemporary issues. Heretofore, our  reasonable "expectations of privacy" have put a limit on what the government could do, by way of the surveillance of individual citizens. Listening to the arguments, I concluded that it may not actually be reasonable to expect any privacy, nowadays, as soon as we step beyond the doorways of our homes.

Our politics is based upon the idea that the "people" have primacy over governmental officials, and that our political activities are not subject to constant surveillance. If we can no longer reasonably expect that our political activities are going to be private, then we are going to have to find effective ways to strengthen our rights to act, politically, without the fear of detention or criminal conviction. The First and the Fourth Amendments are complementary.

And vital.

Our freedoms have been made vulnerable by the very technologies that our freedoms have allowed us to invent.

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