There had been rumors out there that Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was sitting on panels of various Circuit Courts of Appeal. The rumors are true. And we are fortunate enough to have Justice O'Connor delivering opinions in our very own First Circuit.
Her decision in United States v. Novak, First Cir. No. 07-1826, is really interesting. The First Circuit was reviewing the trial court's decision to exclude recorded conversations between an attorney and a client. Writing for a unanimous panel, Justice O'Connor reversed the trial court's decision.
What is so interesting about this decision is that it's clear that Justice O'Connor didn't want to rule as she did. She is quite transparent in her belief that the recording of the conversations between an attorney and a client violates the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But the defendant had not relied upon a Sixth Amendment argument in the trial court; he'd used the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and the trial court had agreed. And since we're engaged in what is at least nominally an adversarial process, the First Circuit didn't feel that it could step in for the defendant and make an argument that he, for some reason, had chosen not to make.
It all goes back to issue spotting in the end, doesn't it?