Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Law in the News: The Henry Louis Gates Arrest

Christopher Hitchens has a provocative piece in Slate this week (you can link to it here) about the Henry Louis Gates arrest.

Hitchens argues that Gates should have complained that the Cambridge police erred by violating his Constitutional right to the privacy of his home -- rather than focusing on alleged discriminatory treatment based on Gates's skin color:
It is the U.S. Constitution ... that makes a citizen the sovereign of his own home and privacy. There is absolutely no legal requirement to be polite in the defense of this right. And such rights cannot be negotiated away over beer.
Hitchens's point is interesting. The accounts of Gates's arrest have been somewhat ambiguous as to whether the Cambridge police defended the disorderly conduct charge on the grounds that Gates had come too far out of the doorway of his house (and thus, perhaps, into the "public sphere").

The much ballyhooed beer at the White House is tomorrow night, and it will be interesting to see how each of Gates, James Crowley, and President Obama discuss the incident after they've had the opportunity to get to know each other personally.