Miranda: More Than Words


By Village Justice Tom Liotti

This year Law Day, May 1, falls on a Sunday so in my humble Village Justice Court we will celebrate it with speakers and a program on April 28 at 7 p.m. Our Law Day Program is named after John L. Molloy and Frank F. Santagata, two former Justices from our Court. This will be our third year of having a Law Day program where we invite the entire community to hear distinguished speakers address important legal topics of the day.

2000px-American_Bar_Association.svgThis year is the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court case of Miranda vs. Arizona (1966). The theme for Law Day this year as established by the American Bar Association is: “Miranda: More Than Words.” As everyone knows from the movies or television, Miranda is the case that laid down four rights of which defendants are supposed to be advised when taken into custody. They are: “you have the right to remain silent”; “anything you say may be used against you”; “you have the right to counsel;” and “if you cannot afford counsel one can be afforded to you.”

Miranda was just one of many cases decided by the so-called Warren Court which reshaped our entire jurisprudence. Miranda has been the most frequently cited case in the history of the Republic. It was indeed more than words because the Court brought the Bill of Rights into a contemporary understanding. Miranda expressed the vitality of the Constitution but also gave litigants a remedy under the Constitution if their rights were violated, namely suppression of the statements that were allegedly made. Whether statements were made and the rights administered by police or federal agents have been the subject of millions of cases.

Beginning in the mid-1980’s law enforcement began to video record more statements of defendants in the stationhouses. These recordings are now taking place in the field in both car and body cameras held by law enforcement. This cuts down on litigation and what were uncertainties about police and defendants’ conduct at the time of arrest and questioning.

While Miranda illuminated the Bill of Rights for all, there are those on the extreme right who believe it should be overturned. One such Court is the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which I have described as America’s Most Dangerous Place because it is a rogue Court which refuses to follow Supreme Court precedent. It is the Klan’s best friend. You’ll learn more about it on Law Day.

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Thomas F. Liotti is an attorney in Garden City and Village Justice in Westbury. He is also an adjunct professor of litigation in the legal studies department at Nassau Community College.

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