SCOTUS news was dominated this week by the oral arguments United States v. Jones, No. 10-1259. In that case, the Court must decide whether law enforcement can conduct GPS monitoring sans warrant without violating the Fourth Amendment’s prescription of unreasonable searches and seizures.

A lot was written about the oral arguments, but here are the best of the week. For mainstream media coverage, you can check out Adam Liptak’s New York Times article on Jones, which he said was “studded with references to George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and the possibility that rapid advances in technology would soon allow the government to monitor everyone’s movements.” Joan Biskupic of the USA Today and David Savage of the LA Times also had coverage.  

Mike Sacks at the Huffington Post had this insight: “The justices appear poised to go big or go home when it comes to protecting privacy rights against digital intrusion.” Over at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick had her characteristically fresh take on the arguments. She said:

So when 

[the Government] talks of those cute little beeper cases from the 1980s, and prophesies a future age in which we come to think of GPS devices as adorable little talking friends, he is really sketching out the contours of that ever-contracting circle. Just as the old glass phone booth and the “spike mike” cases seem archaic when it comes to data mining and pen traces, so someday the state knowing everywhere you drive will seem like a big nothing compared with what’s coming next. The justices seem well aware of that fact today, and completely on top of the technology coming down the road, metaphorical and actual—even if they’re unsure where to draw the constitutional lines.

 At The Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr–who has been on top of this case since it was in the Circuit Court–reflected that the outcome is close because “the votes were hard to count.” He also noted that “if you had to summarize a reaction of the Court as a whole, I would say that the Justices were looking to find a principle to regulate GPS surveillance but unconvinced (at least as of the argument) that there was a legal way to get there without opening up a Pandora’s Box of unsettling lots of long settled practices.”

Lyle Denniston on SCOTUS Blog provided a detailed retelling of the oral arguments. Jim Harper at Cato @ Liberty  argued that if the Court rules against the Government, its rationale should not be the “reasonable expectation of privacy” test. Rather, it should follow the Katz majority holding, according “Fourth Amendment protection to information that Katz had kept private using physical and legal arrangements. The government stands in the same shoes as the general public when it comes to private information—that is, information that can’t be accessed legally or with ordinary perception. When the government accesses information that was otherwise private, those searches and seizures must be reasonable and must almost always be based upon a warrant.”

And finally, at Above the Law, Christopher Danzig writes that “when it comes to electronically tracking people, Jones is just the tip of the iceberg. Law enforcement also often follow American citizens through their cell phones. The practice has become so widespread that some magistrate judges are reconsidering their willingness to authorize it.”