Max Hailperin's FT01 Essay 2 (Fall 1998)

Due: October 5, 1998


There are two principal Supreme Court opinions making the case that wiretapping is not covered by the Fourth Amendment (i.e., that it is not a search or seizure). One is the majority opinion in Olmstead (1928). The other is Justice Black's dissent in Katz (1967). (Recall that Katz overturned Olmstead. By dissenting, Black was indicating a preference to stick with Olmstead's interpretation of the scope of the Fourth Amendment.)

I have attached the relevant portions of these two opinions (277 U.S. 463-466 for Olmstead and 389 U.S. 365-367 for Katz.) In each case I have bracketed the relevant portion. Of course, you may want to look at the full opinions for context.

Compare these two opinions. Which does a better job of making the case? How does it do so? Does it bring forward additional arguments that the other ignores? Or simply present the same arguments in a more convincing way? If it is the language used to express the arguments, rather than the arguments themselves, that makes the difference, be specific about what aspects of the writing make the difference. If it is the arguments themselves that make the difference, be specific about which ones.

Your essay should be roughly a couple pages in length, and should be written for an audience of roughly your own educational level, but that is not familiar with these two opinions. You should use the evaluation guidelines below as a source of more information on my expectations for your essay.

Evaluation guidelines

Please rewrite your paper until you are convinced that the answer to each of the following questions is "yes." When you confer with each other about your drafts on the 18th, these questions will guide your discussion. When I grade your essay, I will again use these questions, both to give you feedback and to come up with your letter grade. Specifically, I will start with an A and take off one grade "notch" (e.g., from A to A-, or from A- to B+) for each question where the answer is "no". Be warned that some of the questions are so critical that if the answer is "no," then one or more additional answers are necessarily also "no." For example, if the answer to question 1a is "no," you are doomed for 1b through 1e as well.
  1. Thesis
    1. Does the essay has some specific point it tries to make, discernable to the reader after reading the full essay?
    2. Is that point within the parameters specified by the assignment?
    3. Does the essay stick to that single point?
    4. Is it immediately clear to the reader what point the essay is going to make, without needing to read beyond the first few sentences?
    5. Is the language used to state the thesis clear, straightforward, even powerful?
  2. Audience
    1. Is the essay consistent in the assumptions it makes about the audience's background knowledge and vocabulary?
    2. Are those assumptions within the parameters specified by the assignment?
    3. Is the general style, tone, or voice of the essay appropriate to a general academic audience, or if a different audience is explicitly stated in the assignment, to that audience?
  3. Organization
    1. Does the essay have an introduction that lets the reader know what to expect from the essay?
    2. Does the essay have a conclusion that leaves the reader with a satisfied feeling that the matter has been neatly wrapped up?
    3. Does the body of the essay (between the introduction and conclusion) have a discernible organizing principle?
    4. Does each paragraph and each larger organizational unit start with a clear statement of topic, except where there is a good reason to do otherwise?
    5. Are there smooth, sensible transitions from each topic to the next?
  4. Supporting evidence
    1. Is each claim you make backed up by specific supporting evidence?
    2. Have you properly documented the sources of all your evidence, even when that evidence is not directly quoted?
    3. Do you comment upon each quotation or other piece of evidence and work it into the flow of your essay?
    4. Do you provide evidence that could on its face be taken as counter to your thesis, and explain how it fits into your understanding of the matter?
  5. Mechanics
    1. Is the grammar, spelling, diction (word choice), and typography all good enough to not distract the reader?
    2. Is the writing clear, crisp and direct?