See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Smell No Evil

Not everyone is wholly satisfied with the decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court; among the malcontents are, for example, the more than two hundred prisoners waiting on “death row” for the Court to decide whether or not their pending execution is cruel, unusual, or otherwise unconstitutional, yet few will deny that the Court brings an innovative spirit to the interpretation of law. Recently Jacksonville, Florida, prohibited the display on vast outdoor screens of certain portions of the human anatomy, ostensibly in order to avoid traffic problems when such screens are visible from traveled roadways. But the Court, even more alert than its members usually look in photographs, quickly spotted in this local ordinance a thinly disguised attempt to abridge the freedom of the press.

Some may wonder whether the Court did well to devote itself to this relatively trivial matter, in view of the many more grievous problems facing it. They may think that instead of abiding by the old Roman maxim De minimis non curat lex (the law is not concerned with trifles), the Supreme Court appears more impressed by the slogan of a contemporary moving company: “No Job Too Small for Us.” But if we look beneath the surface, we see that the Court has broken new legal ground. The attention of most commentators was fixed on the fact that it will now be possible for drivers to witness diverting scenes on drive-in screens as they pass by. Only the more observant noted the promising future opened by Justice Powell’s interesting explanation that it is unreasonable to forbid the projection of such scenes, inasmuch as anyone who wishes to avoid seeing them can do so “simply by averting his eyes.”

This will ...

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