Explaining Justice O'Connor's Fourth Amendment Swing to the Center: Of Voting Records, Case-by-Case-Analysis, and a Sophisticated Instinct for the Political Center

Marvin Zalman, Wayne State University
Elsa Shartsis

Justice O'Connor's notable liberal majority opinion in City of Indianapolis of v. Edmond (2000), liberal vote in Ferguson v. City of Charleston (2001), and dissenting opinion in Atwater v. City of Lago Vista (2001) raise the possibility that her Fourth Amendment jurisprudence may be shifting toward the center-left. This surmise is supported by an examination of her voting record in 92 decisions since she joined the Supreme Court. An examination of Justice O'Connor's reasoning displays her characteristic focus on the specific facts of the cases. Her liberal decisions, as well as her conservative votes in cases such as the "heat sensing" case of Kyllo v. United States (2001) can best be explained by her "sophisticated instinct" for the political center. Edmond, especially, may be seen as an indication of disenchantment with the war on drugs.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006