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Pennsylvania’s Villanova University School of Law professor Laurie Magid does not see the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision to uphold Miranda as a strong re-affirmation of the 1966 landmark case but as a “sharp rebuke” to Congress for its attempt to pass legislation contradicting a constitutionally mandated right. It was significant, Magid said, that Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the majority, and she believes that by his doing so the court sent a strong signal that checked a “full frontal assault” on the protective warning which is so familiar it has become part of the American fabric. “Rehnquist, all along, has been no fan of Miranda,” Magid said. “One of the reasons he puts out [for upholding Miranda] is that there wasn’t an appealing substitute; however, he did not strengthen or expand it. In fact, the trend in the past has been to chip away at it, and it will be fascinating to see if the court limits it even further.” Magid is a noted Miranda scholar and has written two well-received articles on the topic. For nine years, she served as a prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, during which time she tried hundreds of criminal cases. Magid currently teaches criminal procedure and appellate advocacy. In a previous interview with The Legal Intelligencer, Magid correctly predicted that the Supreme Court would uphold Miranda and that Justice Antonin Scalia would pen a strongly-worded dissent. Joined only by Justice Clarence Thomas, Scalia wrote: “Today’s judgment converts Miranda from a milestone of judicial overreaching into the very Cheops’ Pyramid … of judicial arrogance. In imposing its court-made code upon the States, the original opinion at least asserted that it was demanded by the Constitution. Today’s decision does not pretend that it is and yet still asserts the right to impose it against the will of the people’s representatives in Congress.” In the articles she has written, Magid discussed how the theory of the supposed bright-line test which the Warren court sought to provide turned out to present as many problems as it solved. Magid agreed with Scalia on several points in his dissent, in particular his statement that “the supposedly ‘bright’ lines that separate interrogation from spontaneous declaration, the exercise of a right from waiver, and the adequate warning from the inadequate, likewise have turned out to be rather dim and ill-defined.” Magid said she believes the cautious and measured opinion was a strategic decision to present a more unified front than the court would have shown had a strong Miranda supporter, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, written an opinion with a plurality of four and two concurrences and two dissents. “While the civil libertarians see this as a victory,” she said, “the court did not discuss many of issues they’ve raised regarding the use of deception during interrogations. It’ll be business as usual for the police officers who are giving the warning but minimizing the impact by using tactics of deception to get the confession.” The Supreme Court justices stopped short of saying they agreed with the original Miranda decision, nor did they predict it will stand for all time. Magid predicts there will be more attempts to expand and contract the scope of Miranda and that debate within the courtroom and classroom will continue for the foreseeable future. “It’s going to keep us all gainfully employed and very busy figuring this out,” she said.

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