L.A. v. Patel: law must allow hotels to contest police access to registries

In Los Angeles v. Patel, decided this morning, the Supreme Court held 5-4 with Justice Kennedy joining the four liberals that a Los Angeles law requiring hotels to give police free access to guest registries was facially in violation of the Fourth Amendment because it did not provide a way for hotels to challenge a given disclosure. Justice Sotomayor wrote the majority opinion. Cato had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the position that prevailed. Earlier here. Pictured postcard via present-day Vibe Hotel. More: Josh Gerstein, Politico; Jim Harper, Cato.

More from Conor Friedersdorf: Justice Scalia in dissent focused on the historically closely regulated nature of innkeepers, but would he feel as comfortable if technological advance turned the hotel registries into an instantly accessible government database of where all travelers are staying, a development lawyers for Los Angeles appeared to view as perfectly Constitutional?


  • Justice Scalia believes that the fourth amendment is not part of the Constitution that originalist defend.

  • Mark, that’s a surprising thing to say about Justice Scalia given his role in numerous cases as a premier defender of the Fourth Amendment, often joining with more liberal justices to strike down overreaching searches and seizures:


    His ruling in the hotel case was a break from that familiar pattern, and, by its own terms, was grounded in precedents in which innkeepers had historically been subject to an unusual degree of state scrutiny.

  • One would hope there is some sort of exception for visiting foreigners. (Likely a primary reason for the historical scrutiny?)