Chief Justice Roberts Dissents from Denial of Fourth Amendment Case — Again

Chief Justice Roberts published a dissent from denial of certiorari today in a Fourth Amendment case, Virginia v. Harris, that is interesting in part because it resembles his dissent from denial of certiorari last year in Pennsylvania v. Dunlap (a.k.a. the “tough as a three­ dollar steak” opinion).

In both Harris and Dunlap, a state Supreme Court imposed a Fourth Amendment rule that a single source of suspicion did not allow the police to take an important investigative step. In Dunlap, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ruled that the officer who saw a “single isolated transaction” that he strongly believed was a drug buy did not have probable cause to make an arrest based on it. In Harris, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that an officer who received a report of a drunk driver did not have reasonable suspicion to stop the car based on it. In both cases, Chief Justice Roberts, joined by one other Justice, wrote an opinion saying that the Court should have taken the case.

It’s too early to say whether these dissents suggest that Chief Justice Roberts is particularly interested in Fourth Amendment cases, or whether they mean something else. But I found the similarity between Harris and Dunlap pretty interesting.