Of Supreme Importance: Listening and Making Heard the Voices of Children | Love146
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Former Director of Texas Operations & General Counsel


A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States considered a 4th Amendment constitutional question arising out of California.[1] Though many people might not expect children to weigh in on such a technical and complex topic, Love146 was present to ensure the Court knew that children did in fact have something to say – and to make sure they were heard.

The case began because of a City of Los Angeles statute giving police the right to access guest registries at motels and hotels, upon request and without a warrant.[2] Because the 4th Amendment to the Constitution generally prohibits warrantless searches and seizures, a group of local motel owners decided to challenge the law in court.
 

Eventually the case made its way up to the Supreme Court, and that’s when we got involved.

 

The reason we care about the application of this law has little to do with our academic interest in the Constitution and everything to do with the way it affects children. Children are frequently exploited by traffickers who use motels as modern-day trading blocks.[3] By utilizing online classified ads, pimps can turn an hourly-rate motel room into a brothel in a matter of minutes. We of course want to make sure that law enforcement officers have every constitutionally allowable tool at their disposal to combat this crime.

Some people say that advocating for victims of child trafficking gives voice to the voiceless. We take a slightly different view. It’s not that children are voiceless; it’s that people usually aren’t listening. We try to give children a microphone more often than we shout through our own megaphone. And we continually call for more astute listeners to gather around them. To lean in. To actually hear them – even in spaces where we might not naturally expect them to be speaking.
 

Our advocacy role in the abolition movement is more akin to amplifying the voices of children than proxying them.

 
Vulnerable and exploited children were not made a party to this case and they weren’t invited to share their perspective with the Court. So we attempted to represent them by filing an amicus curiae brief[4] – a kind of legal and factual overview offered as a “friend of the court” (which is the english translation of “amicus curiae”). We made sure that as our esteemed Justices considered the constitutional questions before them, they did so with all relevant facts in hand – including a clear picture of exactly how traffickers thrive off of the anonymity and fluidity that public accommodations currently provide.
 

Those who sexually exploit children in motels and hotels usually hide behind tightly closed doors. But in this case, we made sure they were fully visible to the Court.

 
As I sat in Reagan International Airport reflecting on the day and preparing to head home, I called my wife. I told her that if I never did another thing with my law degree, helping give voice to sexually exploited children before the Supreme Court would have made the three-year law school investment we made as a family – an investment of stress, study, lost income, and late nights – completely worth it. This was, perhaps, the greatest privilege of my career.

Regardless of the eventual outcome of this case, we stand confident knowing that children – though absent from the actual courtroom that day – were heard. This kind of advocacy is made possible solely by your support. Thank you for partnering in this effort and amplifying the powerful voices of the children we serve.
 

This work is impossible without your support:

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[1] City of Los Angeles v. Naranjibhai Patel, et al., No. 13-1175 (U.S.).
[2] Los Angeles Municipal Code § 41.49.
[3] See Erika R. George & Scarlet R. Smith, In Good Company: How Corporate Social Responsibility Can Protect Rights and Aid Efforts to End Child Sex Trafficking and Modern Slavery, 46 N.Y.U. J. Int’l L. & Pol. 55, 66-67 (2013).
[4] Brief for Love146 as Amicus Curiae Supporting Neither Party, City of Los Angeles v. Naranjibhai Patel, et al., (No. 13-1175).

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