Circuit Judge’s Dissent In Urinalysis Case Could Spur Supreme Court Review

The 11th Circuit Court has ruled that a Georgia law requiring all political candidates running for state office to undergo drug screening urinalysis is constitutional, but it is the dissent that has attorney Walker Chandler talking. “It’s a great decision,” Walker said. “Have you read the dissent. It hits the nail right on the head.”

In a scathing 11 page dissent, Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett writes, “I do not believe that the suspicionless search in these circumstances serves any special governmental need beyond the normal need for law enforcement, and, if it did, I believe that the candidates’ privacy interests outweigh the governmental interests. … We are not merely dealing with the denial of a job opportunity, but with the denial of opportunity to participate in our democratic form of government.”

Barkett’s dissent also calls into question apparent First Amendment violations posed by the controversial Georgia law. “The majority maintains that the government’s purpose [in passing this legislation] is not suppression of free expression. Yet, it supports its holding by citing the importance of ensuring that elected officials are ‘persons appreciative of the perils of drug use’ and ‘sympathetic to drug interdiction efforts.’

Establishing a certain ideology as a ‘qualification’ for holding public office appears to be a content-based restriction on free expression.”

Chandler, who filed the action against the Georgia statute and served as his own legal counsel maintains that he will forgo an “en banc” review of his case and will attempt to take his appeal directly to the Supreme Court. He intends to argue that the law violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Referring to the Court’s decision last year to uphold the constitutionality of a Washington state law mandating random and warrantless searches of high school athletes partly on the notion that school children live under fewer constitutional protections than adults, Chandler fires, “The only way the Supreme Court could [then] approve of Georgia’s law is by affirming that all Georgians are [children.]”

NORML’s recently reformed Amicus Curiae Committee is currently reviewing the 11th Circuit Court decision and will consider filing an amicus brief if the Supreme Court decides to hear the case.

For more information, please contact Walter Chandler, Esq., at (800) 560-3882.