The Right to Privacy

[T]he right to be left alone—the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.

Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that in his dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States. Together with his law partner Samuel Warren, Louis Brandeis developed our modern legal concept of a right to be left alone in an 1890 Harvard Law Review paper, The Right to Privacy. Brandeis was a firm supporter of free speech. He spoke out, unsuccessfully, against Woodrow Wilson’s press censorship during World War I. But he also believed that

[t]he press is overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and of decency. Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and the vicious, but has become a trade, which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery.

I’m as strong a supporter of the the First Amendment as Justice Brandeis was. I’m an equally strong supporter of the right to privacy.

I have lived a great deal of my life in public. Indeed, ever since I went on the air as a broadcaster in 1965, I’ve been a public figure in some sense or another. While there are parts of my life that are private and not the business of anyone else I do not choose to share them with, there are parts of my life that are fair game for public comment, and that’s fine by me.

But talking about me is not the same thing as talking to me. I believe that Justice Brandeis would say that someone who may be within his rights speaking or writing about me publicly doesn’t not have the right to burden me with continual communications directed to me when I have told him to stop.

The Supreme Court, in cases such as Katz v. U.S., has come around to agreeing with Brandeis about the right to privacy. Certainly, Judge Rasinsky of the District Court in Maryland agrees. Although he did not sustain my Petition for a Peace Order yesterday, the judge did point out that since the Respondent was now on notice, his continuing to contact me would be be illegal—and that there wasn’t any exception for his behavior because he claimed to be a “journalist.”

That isn’t the death knell of the First Amendment. It’s a responsible balancing of Free Speech versus Privacy. And a wise one in my opinion.

One more thing …

From time to time, I will directly address an individual in a post on this blog. When I do so, it is generally in the form of a rhetorical question. If anyone wishes that they not be directly addressed in future posts on Hogewash!, I will be pleased to abide by his wishes. Simply notify me with an email or snail mail to one of the addresses shown on the DMCA Contact page. Please note that I reserve the right to continue to speak or write about such individuals. Please note also that persons commenting on this blog are solely responsible for the contents of their own comments.

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