March 23, 2004 - The Detroit Free Press (MI)

High Court To Rule On Police Requests For ID

Personal Privacy, Cops' Investigative Powers At Odds

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WASHINGTON -- Is it illegal to refuse to tell police your name?

That's a topic being debated by the Supreme Court.

The justices heard arguments Monday in a first-of-its kind case that asks whether people can be punished for refusing to identify themselves.

The court took up the appeal of a Nevada cattle rancher who was arrested after he told a deputy that he had done nothing wrong and didn't have to reveal his name or show an ID during an encounter on a rural highway four years ago.

Larry Hiibel, 59, was prosecuted based on his silence and finds himself at the center of a major privacy rights battle.

The case will clarify police powers, determining whether law enforcement officials can demand to see identification whenever they deem it necessary.

Justices are revisiting their 1968 decision that said police may briefly detain someone on reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, without the stronger standard of probable cause, to get more information.

In other news Monday, the court:

  • Refused to hear an appeal that questions the conduct of a federal judge involved in lawsuits over the FBI siege of the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas, in 1993.
  • Refused to hear an appeal over contaminated meat that sickened 60 patrons of two Sizzler restaurants and killed a 3-year-old girl.
  • The court did not comment in turning down a request from Excel Corp., a meat company that supplied restaurants with contaminated beef four years ago. The Wichita, Kansas, company wanted the justices to overturn a Wisconsin appeals court that had held the meat company responsible for an outbreak of E. coli.
  • Refused to revive a lawsuit filed by the fisherman who rescued Elian Gonzalez and demonstrators and neighbors of the shipwrecked Cuban refugee's Miami relatives.
  • Agreed to consider a health funding dispute between the government and two Indian tribes, a case with about $100 million at stake nationwide.
  • Refused to intervene in a case testing the delicate issue of judicial recusals. An appeals court had said that a California judge appeared to be biased against people who protested logging and reassigned the demonstrators' lawsuit.
  • Refused to hear a copyright fight concerning Tarzan storybooks. The court rejected an appeal from heirs of illustrator Burne Hogarth, who wanted a share of the rights to "Tarzan of the Apes" and "Jungle Tales of Tarzan," both published in the 1970s and based on the character created by author Edgar Rice Burroughs.

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