Media for City of Ontario v. QuonAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 2010 in City of Ontario v. Quon
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 17, 2010 in City of Ontario v. Quon
Anthony M. Kennedy:
That is because even on the assumption that Quon had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his text messages, the search was reasonable.
The search was justified by a legitimate work-related rationale.
Chief Scharf ordered the search in order to determine whether the character limit on the city's contract was sufficient to meet the city's needs.
The department had a legitimate interest in ensuring that employees were not being forced to pay out of their own pocket for work-related expenses or on the other hand that the city was not paying for extensive personal communications.
As for the scope of the search, reviewing the transcripts was reasonable because it was an efficient and expedient way to determine whether Quon’s overages were the result of work related messaging or personal use.
The fact that Quon likely had only a limited privacy expectation, lessened the risk that the review would intrude on highly private details of his life.
But if a search happened to reveal intimate details of Quon's life, does not make it unreasonable.
In concluding that the search was unreasonable the Court of Appeals pointed to ways that the search could have been conducted that would be less intrusive on Quon’s privacy.
This approach was inconsistent with controlling precedents.
This Court has repeatedly refused to declare that the only -- that only the least intrusive search practicable can be reasonable one under the Fourth Amendment and that's because judges engaged in post-talk evaluations of government conduct can almost always imagine some alternative means by which the objectives of the government might have been accomplished.
The analytic errors of the Court of Appeals in this case illustrate the necessity for this principle.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.
The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Court's opinion.
The Court's judgment is unanimous.
Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion, Justice Scalia has filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.