The problem with today’s laws when it comes to technology is that they can never catch up as technology is changing daily while our laws change slower than molasses on a winter morning. In most cases this a disaster in the making but when it comes the the US Supreme Court making decisions in cases with a big technology influence one would hope that the judges would have a grasp of some basics.
It turns out that in the case before them right now that involves texting the judges don’t have a clue.
During oral arguments today in the case City of Ontario v. Quon, which considers whether police officers had an expectation of privacy in personal (and sexually explicit) text messages sent on pagers issued to them by the city, the justices of the Supreme Court at times seemed to struggle with the technology involved.
The first sign was about midway through the argument, when Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. – who is known to write out his opinions in long hand with pen and paper instead of a computer – asked what the difference was “between email and a pager?”
It goes downhill from there
At one point, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked what would happen if a text message was sent to an officer at the same time he was sending one to someone else.
“Does it say: ‘Your call is important to us, and we will get back to you?’” Kennedy asked.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrangled a bit with the idea of a service provider.
“You mean (the text) doesn’t go right to me?” he asked.
Then he asked whether they can be printed out in hard copy.
“Could Quon print these spicy little conversations and send them to his buddies?” Scalia asked.
If I was an American depending on the courts to be able to render a full and knowledgeable decision I would be really concerned.