The United States Supreme Court heard oral argument last week in a case further exploring the contours of the Miranda warning, J.D.B. v. North Carolina. The issue is whether an interrogator should, or must, consider the suspect's age in determining whether to give the warning. The facts involved a 13 year old student corralled in a school office with two police officers and an assistant principal. The dispute is whether, under the Court's latest Miranda jurisprudence, a court should presume the student felt free to leave--the upshot of the North Carolina supreme court's holding that no Miranda warning was necessary because the boy was not in custody.
Like the Court's prior decisions revisiting Miranda, the ideological divide is wide and judicial temperature, well, a little heated. Counsel for the student argued that "The empirical data demonstrates to us that the older a child is to an adult, the more adult-like they are." Justice Scalia immediately fired back, asking if she really needed data to reach that conclusion. Ouch.
Of course, the gallery broke up.
And when Justice Breyer asked North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, "You know the sentence I'm referring to in my dissent, presumably,?" Scalia broke in with "Some people don't read dissents. He may not have read it." To which Breyer parried, "I live always in hope." Hope, and on a Supreme Court with Justice Scalia, a thick skin.
Here's a little taste of Scalia at his bitter best, dissenting in Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 465 (2000), back in the bad-old-days when Miranda revision wasn't going his way:
Today's judgment converts Miranda from a milestone of judicial overreaching into the very Cheops' Pyramid (or perhaps the Sphinx would be a better analogue) of judicial arrogance. In imposing its Court-made code upon the States, the original opinion at least asserted that it was demanded by the Constitution. Today's decision does not pretend that it is -- and yet still asserts the right to impose it against the will of the people's representatives in Congress.