Alito: “Sympathetic cases can make bad law.”

March 23rd, 2011

Curious comment coming from the Justice who wears his hear on his sleeve (see here and here). In J.D.B. v.  North Carolina, Justice Alito had this reply to Justice Kagan’s hypothetical.

JUSTICE KAGAN: Do we need either imaginative powers or empirical data to know that when a 13-year-old is brought into a room in his school, taken out of class, four people are there, two are police officers, one is assistant principal, threatened with custody, that that person is not going to feel free to take off and leave?

MS. BLACKMAN: We do not. I’m simply pointing out that there is a basis of knowledge from which courts as well as police officers can make the required assessment. It is so clear in this case, however

-JUSTICE ALITO: Well, sympathetic cases can make bad law. So take the same set of facts and let’s hypothesize that this is a 15-year-old. Would the 15-year-old appreciate that he could go? Or make him Or make him a street-wise 17-year-old.