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Michigan v. Long

Reaction To The "plain Statement" Rule

In his dissent, joined by Justice Marshall, Justice Brennan criticized the Court's extension of the Terry search. Quoting Justice Robert H. Jackson, Brennan wrote that Fourth Amendment rights "are not mere second-class rights but belong in the category of indispensable freedoms." Brennan thought the Court had gone too far in its new definition of reasonable search and seizure.

To other justices, however, and some legal observers, the most controversial part of the Michigan decision was the Court's new standard for hearing state cases, the so-called "plain statement" rule. Although he concurred with the bulk of the majority decision, Justice Blackmun dissented from the section that defined this new approach to the Court's jurisdiction. In a separate dissent, Justice Stevens offered a lengthy attack on the new rule.

In the past, Stevens noted, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear cases in which a state court denied a citizen a right guaranteed by federal law or the U.S. Constitution. In Michigan, on the contrary, the state of Michigan was asking the Court to hear a case in which the state court defined a citizen's rights "too broadly" by overturning Long's conviction, based on the state Constitution. Stevens was uncomfortable with this new precedent. He went on:

. . . the final outcome of the state processes offended no federal interest whatsoever. Michigan simply provided greater protection to one of its citizens than some other State might provide, or, indeed, than this Court might require throughout the country. I believe that in reviewing the decisions of state courts, the primary role of this Court is to make sure that persons who seek to vindicate federal rights have been fairly heard . . . Finally, I am thoroughly baffled by the Court's suggestion that it must stretch its jurisdiction and reverse the judgment of the Michigan Supreme Court in order to show "[r]espect for the independence of the state courts."
Despite Stevens' concerns, the Court had now shown it would hear cases where a state court had granted broader rights than those guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, as long as the plain statement rule had been met.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Michigan v. Long - Significance, Deciding The Court's Jurisdiction, Reaction To The "plain Statement" Rule