On December 2, 2015, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire in a crowded banquet room in San Bernadino, California, killing 14 and injuring dozens in the deadliest terror attack to take place in the United States since September 11, 2001. As part of their investigation into the couple’s plans, movements and known assoc iates, the FBI requested that Apple help them access the data stored on Farook’s cell phone, which they believed would yield crucial information. Apple declined, in part relying on the right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.This case and others based around the same crucial questions are making their way through the court system: What limits does the Constitution place on the right of the government to access the private information of U.S. citizens? What is the proper Constitutional balance to strike between the right of Americans to maintain privacy in their communications and the right of the government to intrude upon that privacy to achieve legitimate law enforcement and national security objectives? With the advent of email, cell phones, text messaging, blogs and social media, more information about the private lives and habits of Americans is accessible than at any time in the history of the United States. At the same time, the resources and apparatus available to the government to examine and use this information are likewise more extensive than ever before. Participants in the 2016 WALKS Constitution Essay Contest were asked to examine these issues and formulate an opinion based upon the Constitution, the intentions of the Founding Fathers and prior legal precedent. The Constitution Essay Contest was established in 1962 by two Hartford attorneys, Messrs. Tilney and Taylor, to encourage an in-depth, thoughtful study of the United States Constitution among history students at the WALKS schools. Each year the History Department Chair at the host school selects a relevant aspect of the Constitution based on current events, and students are asked to research the original intent of the Founding Fathers, the various ways that the Constitution has been applied over time, and prior court cases which have examined the issue. After students submit their essays, the History Department Chair at each school selects two finalists. The ten finalist essays – without student name or school name – are then submitted to a contest judge, who spends a number of weeks reviewing the papers and choosing a winner and two runners-up. Each April the ten finalists as well as the Heads of School, History Department Chairs, WALKS Advisory Board members and other guests gather for an awards dinner, highlights of which include comments by the contest judge, discussion of opposing points of view among students, and presentation of awards to all finalists. This year’s contest judge was Barry Deonarine, a Westminster graduate with a JD from Stanford Law School. From 1993 to 1996, he worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the Nassau County District Attorney's Office in New York, where he was responsible for the prosecution of criminal cases from arrest to trial. After leaving the DA's Office, he spent a year as an associate at a large Manhattan corporate firm but missed the dynamics of the courtroom. Since 1997, Barry has been in private practice in Manhattan, representing clients in a wide range of criminal and civil matters. During the awards dinner, Barry commented on the growing number of electronic privacy cases facing the judicial system and the precedents being set by the courts’ decisions. The student finalists weighed in on the conflict between the Fourth Amendment right to privacy and the government’s mandate to provide for the security of the nation. Barry commended all the finalists for their thorough research and college-level writing skills. The essay that stood out, however, based on its persuasive arguments and particularly in-depth research, was written by Chloe Ezzo ’17 from Kingswood Oxford School. As this year’s winner, Chloe received a $200 prize and had her name engraved on the winners’ tray which is now on display at Kingswood Oxford until next year’s contest. Chris Ennis ’17 and Anna Wilson ’17, both of Suffield Academy, were selected as first and second runners-up respectively. The other seven finalists were: Cooper Bellet ’17 and Hyeonjo Jeong ’17 of Westminster School, Nathan Bergin ’17 and Carson Drew ’17 of Avon Old Farms, Gloria Yi ’17 and Jason Liu ’17 of Loomis Chaffee, and Alec Rossi ’17 of Kingswood Oxford. All finalists received a certificate of recognition and a copy of the book Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror by Michael Hayden. We congratulate Chloe and her fellow finalists on their outstanding performance in this year’s contest! Americans have always treasured their right to privacy – but the digital age in which we live today is raising new questions about the boundaries of that privacy. The Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie, 2014, stated in part: “Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life’... The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.” As technology continues to progress at a rapid pace, it seems clear that the question of how private our electronic devices really are will continue to be debated both inside and outside of the courtroom.
WALKS expresses its thanks to the following donors whose outstanding gifts of $5,000-$30,000 are providing direct support to one or more scholarship recipients, each recognized by the name of his or her sponsor. If either you or your company is interested in sponsoring a Named Scholar, contact the WALKS Treasurer for more information.
Heads of School at the five WALKS Schools
The WALKS Foundation and the WALKS Scholars are grateful for the generous contributions of the following individuals, families, foundations and corporations during the 2015-2016 fiscal year:
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