From the Bench, a Flair for Hard-Boiled Crime WritingI'm quite conflicted here. I don't agree at all with Roberts in general but I do greatly admire his writing chops.
WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has a playful side, and it is steeped in pop culture. In June, he cited Bob Dylan. On Tuesday, in a dissent from the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an interesting criminal case, he described a street-corner drug deal in South Philadelphia in two paragraphs of clipped, hard-boiled sentences that owed something to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
“The neighborhood?” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Tough as a three-dollar steak.”
The chief justice, joined by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, would have agreed to hear the case, Pennsylvania v. Dunlap, No. 07-1486, on a question that has divided state supreme courts: Is a hand-to-hand exchange of cash for a small object in a high-crime neighborhood enough to justify an arrest? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year said no, saying the police officer, Sean Devlin, had not actually seen drugs.
In the more conventional part of his dissent, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that there was no explanation for what happened on the street “remotely as likely as the drug transaction Devlin believed he had witnessed.”
In noir mode, the chief justice put it this way: “Devlin knew the guy wasn’t buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up the buyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack in the guy’s pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office.”
4 days ago