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Legal Milestone List

  The Great Ferris Fire
  Berrien County Courthouse
  Elloitt-Larsen Civil Rights Act
  Milliken v. Bradley
  Elk, Oil, and the Environment
  Whisper to Rallying Cry
  Poletown & Eminent Domain
  Prentiss M. Brown
  Otis Milton Smith
  Freedom Road
  President Gerald R. Ford
  Mary Coleman
  Committee of One
  Milo Radulovich
  Striking Racial Covenants
  Murphy's Dissent
  Conveying Michigan
  Ending Jim Crow
  Pond's Defense
  Mount Clemens Pottery
  Emelia Schaub
  Rose of Aberlone
  Protecting the Impaired
  Laughing Whitefish
  The Uninvited Ear
  The King's Grant
  Improving Justice
  One Person—One Vote
  Eva Belles' Vote
  Constitutional Convention
  Ten Hours or No Sawdust
  Access to Public Water
  Augustus Woodward
  Sojourner Truth
  Justice William Fletcher
  Roosevelt-Newett Trial
  Cooley Law Office
  Baseball Reserve Clause
  Ossian Sweet Trial

15. The Uninvited Ear

Judge Damon Keith's decision in a 1971 case upheld the right of Americans to be free from unreasonable government intrusion. Dedicated and placed inside the Penobscot Building in Detroit on December 18, 1991.

Complete Text on Milestone Marker

The Uninvited Ear

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures by their government. That protection was upheld against government challenge in a 1971 decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, sitting in Detroit.

The U. S. Department of Justice, without first obtaining judicial approval, wiretapped conversations involving a suspect in the bombing of a CIA office in Ann Arbor. When challenged, the Justice Department argued that domestic national security concerns required the executive branch of the federal government, through the attorney general, to order such wiretaps without prior judicial approval.

Federal District Court Judge Damon Keith rejected that argument, citing the Fourth Amendment protection of "a defendant from the evil of the uninvited ear." Referring to the attorney general's assertion of a power to decide where, when, and whom to wiretap, Judge Keith wrote that "such power held by one individual was never contemplated by the framers of our Constitution and cannot be tolerated today." The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the case, with Detroit lawyer William T. Gossett defending Judge Keith's decision on a pro bono basis, and affirmed Judge Keith's decision.

The Fourth Amendment right of all citizens to be secure against unreasonable government intrusion had been upheld.

Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Detroit Bar Association, 1991.



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