Privacy and the Courts

“It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the [381 U.S. 479, 490] last clause of the fourth resolution [the Ninth Amendment].”—James Madison, in I Annals of Congress 439 (Gales and Seaton ed. 1834), quoted by Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg in Griswald v. Connecticut

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”— Ninth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

 

Lamont v. Postmaster General, in which the Court affirmed the right of an individual to receive controversial political materials through the U.S. mail.

Stanley v. Georgia, in which the Court made explicit the right of individual privacy in controversial reading material, holding that an individual may read as he or she chooses—even material alleged to be obscene, as was the case in Stanley—within the privacy of his or her home.

Osborne v. Ohio, in which the Court upheld an Ohio law banning the possession of child pornography, arguing for a narrow interpretation of Stanley, and stating that “the interests underlying child pornography prohibitions far exceed the interests justifying the Georgia law at issue in Stanley. Every court to address the issue has so concluded.”

NAACP v. Alabama, in which the Court recognized the “chilling effect on First Amendment rights of unauthorized disclosure of member lists.”

Griswald v. Connecticut, in which the Court recognized the importance of protecting a person and personal information, as opposed to a particular place or property.

Katz v. United States, in which the Court set forth a standard for constitutionally protected zones of privacy. In this case, the individual's expectation of privacy was weighed against the government's interest in searching or invading that privacy.