THE SUPREME COURT: The Long Arm in Long Beach

From the day Bookie Pat Irvine bought a $50 federal gambling tax stamp in Long Beach, Calif., the local police took an abiding interest in him. They had a key to his house made, installed a microphone and other eavesdropping equipment, put fluorescent powder on his papers (for fingerprints) and recorded his telephone conversations. After listening and looking for a month, the police charged Irvine with bookmaking. He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison; he appealed.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the case. To a man, the nine Justices were appalled by the length of...

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