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U-WIRE: N.H. ruling may have national impact on private universities

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday November 12, 2002

HANOVER, N.H. A recent ruling by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in a case involving Dartmouth University may limit the privacy rights of students attending private colleges and universities, according to Robert DeKoven, a professor at California Western School of Law.

However, other jurists disagreed, saying that the decision upheld previous court rulings regarding private institutions and civil liberties, rather than setting a new precedent.

The case involved Adam Nemser, who was charged with marijuana possession in 1995. The state supreme court ruled late last month that, though Safety and Security officers did not have a warrant when they searched Nemser's dormitory room, evidence obtained by the college's security service could be used against him in court.

Lawyers for Nemser had previously convinced a lower court that, by handing over confiscated materials to the Hanover Police, Safety and Security officers acted as agents of the state and had therefore violated the student's Fourth Amendment protection.

If the case is brought to the next level the U.S. Supreme Court it might have national impact, DeKoven said.

But Dartmouth General Counsel Robert Donin doubted the ruling will create any legal waves.

"If Mr. Nemser sought review by the Supreme Court, I doubt that the Court would accept the case because it reaffirms a well-established rule of constitutional law, namely, that constitutional guarantees such as the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizures only apply to state action and not to actions by private parties," Donin said.

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