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(The following letter appeared in The Berkshire Eagle in response to Alan Chartock's column "I Publius".  It is reproduced here without permission.) 
Chartock off base on Court ruling

To the Editor of THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE:-
It is a rare week in which Alan Chartock fails to open the door for criticism of a position taken by him. In his most recent "I Publius" column (April 1), Mr. Chartock criticizes a recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning a "stop and frisk" search of a person based on the tip of an informant. Mr. Chartock asks why the word
of the informant was not enough to justify the search. "What do they want, a signed confession?" he wonders.

Perhaps if Mr. Chartock was familiar with the facts of this particular case (as he should have been if he wanted to criticize the ruling) he would not have been so quick to rush to judgment. The information given to the police in this instance was received from an anonymous source. The police had absolutely no basis for determining the
reliability or veracity of this informant. For all they knew, it could have been a person with a personal grudge against the alleged wrongdoer. (This search was considered so beyond Constitutional limits, that the court was unanimous in its decision -- even Justices Scalia and Thomas, certainly no friends of defendants in criminal cases, voted with the Court.) 

Isn't it reasonable to require that when the state seeks to intrude on the sanctity of our person and our homes, that it does this only on the basis of information that it is reasonably certain is correct? How would Mr. Chartock feel if one of his enemies decided to phone the police and report the presence of contraband at his Great Barrington residence, and on this basis awoke the family at 5 a. m. and proceeded to turn the contents of the house upside down looking for the suspected contraband? My guess is that he would not be happy and we would certainly read about it in the following week's "I Publius."

Alford, April 5, 2000 
© 2000 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspapers, Inc. Reproduced here without permission.

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