Chief Justice William Taft eyed each of the associate justices who sat around the mahogany conference table. "Ray Olmstead brazenly broke the law," he said scornfully, his glance lingering on Justice Louis Brandeis, his judicial adversary on the Supreme Court. Brandeis met the chief justice's gaze, and an uncomfortable silence filled the room. Taft smiled knowingly; he had the votes. Another dissent from the people's attorney, he mused to himself, referring to Justice Brandies' popular nickname. "The plaintiff is a rogue cop who organized a $2 million bootlegging operation."
"Agreed," Brandeis interrupted. "But the evidence against Olmstead was gathered illegally, and the government will be imperiled if it fails to scrupulously observe its own laws."
"What laws were broken?" thundered Taft. "Do you believe police wiretaps constitute an illegal search and seizure?" "Yes," said Brandeis.
Taft's fleshy face reddened. "The framers of the Constitution intended that the Fourth Amendment prevent the government from searching a man's house against his will. There was no search or seizure in this case," he scoffed. "The evidence was secured outside of the home, by hearing only. One can not extend the original language of the amendment to telephone wires."
Brandeis knew that Taft's strict interpretation would prevail; nonetheless, the truth had to be spoken. "Today, subtler and more far-reaching methods of invading privacy are available. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment."
Brandeis' famous dissent in Olmstead v. United States formed the legal basis of the court's decision to overturn Olmstead in 1967.