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Chief justice says court should hear drunken driving case

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wanted to use a case from Virginia to decide whether an anonymous tip is enough to stop a car on suspicion of drunken driving.

But the only colleague who agreed with him that the U.S. Supreme Court should take on the issue was Justice Antonin Scalia. Under the Supreme Court’s procedures, four justices must agree that a case merits review.

The Supreme Court of Virginia split 4-3 in Harris v. Commonwealth in deciding that a policeman must see something to corroborate the tip before he can stop a vehicle, even one described with particularity by the tipster. Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn wrote the majority opinion. Justice Cynthia D. Kinser, Donald W. Lemons and LeRoy F. Millette Jr. dissented.

Because other courts have ruled the other way and drunken driving is an inherently dangerous activity, the high court should at least have considered the issue, Roberts wrote.

By Alan Cooper

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