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CITY OF ONTARIO v. QUON

Docket No.: 08-1332
Certiorari Granted: Dec 14 2009
Argued: April 19, 2010
Decided: June 17, 2010

Topics:

Due Process, Fourteenth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Privacy Act, privacy, probable cause

PartyNames: City of Ontario, California, et al. v. Jeff Quon, et al.
Petitioner: City of Ontario, California, et al.
Respondent: Jeff Quon, et al.

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Citation: 529 F.3d 892

City of Ontario, California, et al.
v.
Jeff Quon, et al.
Background:

While individuals do not lose Fourth Amendment rights merely because they work for the government, some expectations of privacy held by government employees may be unreasonable due to the "operational realities of the workplace." O'Connor v. Ortega, 480 U.S. 709, 717 (1987) (plurality). Even if there exists a reasonable expectation of privacy, a warrantless search by a government employer - for non-investigatory work-related purposes or for investigations of work-related misconduct - is permissible if reasonable under the circumstances. Id. at 725-26 (plurality).

Question Presented:

1. Whether a SWAT team member has a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages transmitted on his SWAT pager, where the police department has an official no-privacy policy but a non-policymaking lieutenant announced an informal policy of allowing some personal use of the pagers. 2. Whether the Ninth Circuit contravened this Court's Fourth Amendment precedents and created a circuit conflict by analyzing whether the police department could have used "less intrusive methods" of reviewing text messages transmitted by a SWAT team member on his SWAT pager. 3. Whether individuals who send text messages to a SWAT team member's SWAT pager have a reasonable expectation that their messages will be free from review by the recipient's government employer.

Question:

1) Does a city employee have a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages transmitted on his city-issued pager when the police department has no official privacy policy for the pagers? 2) Did the Ninth Circuit contravene Supreme Court precedent by analyzing whether the police department could have used "less intrusive methods" of reviewing text messages?

CITY OF ONTARIO v. QUON
ORAL ARGUMENT

April 19, 2010

Holding: reversed and remanded
Vote: 9-0
Opinion By: Justice Anthony M. Kennedy
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