NewsHour: Supreme Court Action: Mandatory Drug Testing – January 14, 1997

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The case before the Supreme Court comes from Georgia. It concerns drug testing and political candidates. We get a briefing on today’s arguments from NewsHour regular Stuart Taylor, correspondent for the American Lawyer and Legal Times. Thanks for being with us, Stuart.

STUART TAYLOR, The American Lawyer: Nice to be here.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What are the facts in this case?

STUART TAYLOR: The Georgia state legislature in 1990 prompted in part by the federal indictment of Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry on drug charges, passed a new law that required anyone who wanted to run for election for any high office in the state of Georgia, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, commissioner of agriculture, state legislature, including judges from the Supreme Court on down had to pass a drug test first, specifically they had to submit a certificate showing that they are going to a state-approved laboratory, a doctor’s office, given a urine specimen, passed the test within 30 days of filing for the election. Two Libertarian candidates for state office in the 1994 election sued, claiming that this drug testing law violated their rights, their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures, and their First Amendment rights of free speech. And the lower courts projected that claim, the Court of Appeals by a two to one vote. The candidates approved to the appeal to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court will now decide whether it’s constitutional.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In the lower court cases the state of Georgia acknowledged that there was no evidence that people running for office had particular drug problems, right? So that’s not an issue here.