By Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, a professor at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law
In an effort to educate law students, the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section has established “The Citizen Amicus Project” which invites current law students to contribute their own insights to a current Supreme Court case now being decided. The goal of this brand new project is to encourage law students to contribute to a national dialogue on constitutional issues that are relevant to their lives.
The project exists as a web-based constitutional debate about ongoing Supreme Court cases. Similar to formal amicus briefs, the Citizen Amicus Project seeks input from interested parties to help resolve constitutional issues. The goal is to provide a focused opportunity for law students to contribute to a national legal question that affects law students.
This first iteration of the Citizen Amicus Project focuses on the Fourth Amendment. Under current Fourth Amendment doctrine many of the Supreme Court’s determinations turn on what society considers objectively “reasonable.” What is objectively reasonable, of course, is a contested issue, and law students can weigh in on this standard as well as any other subset of Americans.
More specifically, the 2011-2012 Project focuses on the Fourth Amendment questions arising out of warrantless GPS surveillance. Almost all law students own cell phones, computers, and GPS devices that can be tracked and, thus, personally can understand the liberty interests at stake in warrantless tracking.
In November, the Supreme Court will hear United States v. Jones a case that raises questions of whether warrantless GPS tracking violates the Fourth Amendment. In Jones, the Supreme Court will review two specific questions: