High Court to Review Text-Messaging Privacy Case

December 14, 2009

The Supreme Court added new cases to its docket this morning, including one involving the extent of privacy for employee text messages and another involving whether immigrants convicted of repeated drug possession charges can be deported.

In City of Ontario v. Quon, the justices will determine whether Ontario, Calif., officials violated the privacy rights of several police officers by reading scores of text messages they sent via pagers issued by the police department. A U.S. District Court ruled against the officers, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the city had violated the privacy rights of police officers. Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, told the Los Angeles Times that the case "came down at a moment when there was virtually no protection for employee privacy. If it stands, it would mean employees for the first time could communicate at work with privacy." City officials, however, argue that employees should expect no privacy when using equipment provided by the employer.

In Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, the justices will consider a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that upheld deportation proceedings of a legal alien convicted of multiple, minor drug possession offenses. The Associated Press reported that while the Fifth Circuit upheld the deportation proceedings, other federal circuits have ruled in favor of immigrants.

The high court also denied, without comment, a case involving four former Guantanamo Bay detainees who say they were tortured and denied their religious liberty rights. For more discussion of today's Supreme Court action see analysis from SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston here.