Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Linda Van Ingen

Committee Members

Mark R. Ellis, Peter J. Longo, David D. Vail


Judicial Activism;Katz v. United States;Reasonable Expectation of Privacy


The Fourth Amendment is broken into two clauses which protect freedom within the home and impose warrant restrictions to enter private space. In 1967, the Supreme Court decided Katz v. United States, which impacted the Fourth Amendment as it changed the meaning of the Amendment and required continued judicial review to provide ongoing clarification. In 1965, Charles Katz was arrested for transmitting gambling information across state lines using a public telephone booth. Federal agents had attached an eavesdropping device to the top of the telephone booth to acquire evidence of illegal activity. At the time, the Supreme Court precedent allowed police to use recording equipment without a warrant as long as the apparatus did not invade the space of the person. Based on the collected information, Katz was arrested. In his appeal, Katz argued that the evidence should not be used against him. The Court of Appeals rejected his claim based on precedent. The Supreme Court regularly uses judicial review to strike a balance between governmental control and individual liberty with regard to Constitutional meaning. Katz v. United States created uncertainty in the application of the search and seizure laws and extended protections to guarantee a right to privacy. A thorough evaluation of oral history interviews with the lawyers who argued for Katz and the government, the Justices’ personal notes on the case, the newspaper accounts of social and political issues, and Supreme Court precedents show that the Warren Court’s 7-1 decision for Katz came with a lack of consensus on what protections the Fourth Amendment guarantees, thus restructuring an expectation of privacy that requires continuous judicial review for clarification. The subjective assessment developed in the decision not only undermined a realistic and measurable system that had been established by precedent, but also created ambiguity in application.

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