Safford Unified School District v. Redding - Oral Argument - April 21, 2009

Safford Unified School District v. Redding

Media for Safford Unified School District v. Redding

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 25, 2009 in Safford Unified School District v. Redding

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 21, 2009 in Safford Unified School District v. Redding

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument first this morning in Case 08-479, Safford Unifed School District v. Redding.

Mr. Wright.

Matthew W. Wright:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court: The search of Savana Redding in this case was constitutional because Mr. Wilson had reason to suspect that she possessed contraband which posed a health and safety risk.

Therefore, searching any place where she might be reasonably hiding that contraband was constitutionally permissible.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Any place, even though he had perhaps no reasonable suspicion to suspect that she was hiding the contraband in her underwear?

Matthew W. Wright:

Your Honor, Mr. Chief Justice, as long as he had reason to suspect, which we believe the evidence does show, he was entitled to search any place where the contraband might be reasonably hidden.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Any place?

I mean, prison inmates, for example, are subject to much more intrusive searches.

Are you suggesting that would have been justified in this case?

Matthew W. Wright:

No, Your Honor.

I'm -- I'm suggesting that where it might be reasonably hidden is based on an administrator's experience and certainly is proven out by the reported cases that we've cite in the reply on pages 8 and 9, which are that students often will secrete items in and under their clothing.

That is not an uncommon thing to happen, although these kind of intrusive searches are rare.

Antonin Scalia:

But I -- I think you're really caught in -- in a dilemma here.

Your answer suggests that you would not have allowed a cavity search in this case.

Matthew W. Wright:

That's correct, Your Honor.

Antonin Scalia:

But people have been known to secrete contraband in -- in bodily cavities.

What is the -- what is the principle under which you would allow a strip search but disallow a cavity search?

Matthew W. Wright:

The principle is, Your Honor, is that the common experience with schoolchildren, as -- as school officials have a relation to schoolchildren, is such that they might hide things, and they do hide things, in and under their clothing.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Was there--

Matthew W. Wright:

But--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

--Was there prior experience in this particular school?

Were there prior occasions on which students had been strip-searched and contraband found?

Matthew W. Wright:

--Your Honor, I don't know, and that's not in the record, but I can tell that you that that would not be the threshold requirement under this Court's prior rulings to justify the search.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

But you -- I thought your answer to Justice Scalia was that in the -- in the school's experience, children do hide contraband in their underwear but not in their body cavities.

Matthew W. Wright:

Yes, Your Honor.

To be more specific, in the nationwide school experience, based on the reported cases that we see, which are contained in the reply at pages 8 and 9, we find that they hide them in and under clothing, but I don't know of any case of which I'm aware where there would be items secreted in body cavities.

And I -- and I feel, Your Honor, that that is a bright-line area because that -- that is -- that is something that the Court can clearly say is off limits.

And--

David H. Souter:

Let me ask you about another bright-line rule that I think you're assuming.

You -- you said in the course of describing the justification for this search that one -- one of the points of justification was that there was a health and safety risk.