They infected me with their love for the law and taught me analytical skills I rely on to this day.”
If you ever get pulled over by a highway patrolman and he refrains from randomly searching your car, you might give some thanks to Tom Clancy.
A leading authority on the Fourth Amendment, Tom is the director of a University of Mississippi center that has carefully trained thousands of judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials on the always-evolving intricacies of search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment, he says, "is where the society and individual intersect," and the title of his organization-the National Center for Justice and the Rule of Law (NCJRL)-emphasizes the need to rigorously balance both sides of the equation.
"The Fourth Amendment is the least understood but the most implicated and litigated part of our Constitution," he says. "It affects about 800 million airline passengers a year whose bodies and bags are screened, 12 million who are arrested, and those involved in countless traffic stops and drug testing-the list goes on and on. The promise of the Fourth Amendment is that people will be secure, but not absolutely-just against unreasonable search and seizure. And we're always pushing at the question of what that means."
The philosophical dimensions engage him. A philosophy graduate of Notre Dame, he was inspired at Vermont Law School by professors such as Kenneth Kreiling, Stephen Dycus, and David Firestone: "They infected me with their love for the law and taught me analytical skills I rely on to this day."
He left cum laude with a clear idea of his focus: teaching and criminal appellate law, arenas in which he could "argue about what the law should be." During 25 years, he briefed and argued over 900 criminal appeals cases while serving as Chief of the Post Conviction Unit in the State's Attorney's Office for Prince George's County, Maryland, and as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Maryland in the Criminal Appeals Division. He developed his Fourth Amendment expertise teaching at law schools of the University of Baltimore, the University of Maryland, American University, and at VLS for a summer stint. In 2001, he was recruited by Ole Miss officials to be NCJRL's first director.
He's written a dozen law review articles, but it's his new book, The Fourth Amendment: Its History and Interpretation (Carolina Academic Press, 2008) that has given him the rejoinder he's been waiting for. "Now when people ask me if I'm Tom Clancy the author, I can say ‘Yes!'"