The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in a case called City of Ontario v. Quon. The case is about whether cops should have the right to keep personal communications on city-issued devices private. The blog DC Dicta has published some of the hiarliously confused questioning.
The first sign was about midway through the argument, when Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. - who is known to write out his opinions in long hand with pen and paper instead of a computer - asked what the difference was “between email and a pager?”
Other justices’ questions showed that they probably don’t spend a lot of time texting and tweeting away from their iPhones either.
At one point, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked what would happen if a text message was sent to an officer at the same time he was sending one to someone else.
“Does it say: ‘Your call is important to us, and we will get back to you?’” Kennedy asked.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrangled a bit with the idea of a service provider.
“You mean (the text) doesn’t go right to me?” he asked.
Then he asked whether they can be printed out in hard copy.
“Could Quon print these spicy little conversations and send them to his buddies?” Scalia asked.
Yes, Scalia. If he printed them, he could put them in envelopes and mail them to all of his buddies. Nothing could be easier. Except maybe telegraph.
UPDATE: It looks like the first quotation, about the difference between email and a pager, actually made lots of sense in context. Roberts was, it seems, asking about a difference in how the law treats pages versus emails. Kennedy, on the other hand, was actually wondering if a pager would give you a busy signal. And Scalia did invoke hard-copy printing to make a point about how easily these messages could be circulated. At any rate, the transcript is here (pdf).
Via Boing Boing
Image: US Supreme Court, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from bootbearwdc's photostream