High court finds wandering OK

Wanderlust is not only not against the law - now it's protected by the nation's highest court, Monitor correspondent Curtis J. Sitomer writes. The United States Supreme Court in a series of rulings this term has cracked down on crime by setting strict limits on the activities of criminals or suspected criminals. But at the same time, it has staunchly stood by the constitutional rights of others. The high court's latest decision struck down California's longtime vagrancy law, which let police officers stop and demand identification from a person - even if he were not linked to a crime.

The case involved Edward Lawson, a black man known as the ''I-95 stroller,'' whose nocturnal strollings through all-white neighborhoods in southern California led to frequent questionings by police and demands for identification. Mr. Lawson's lawyers had argued that the California statute resulted in arbitrary harassment and arrests. Writing for the majority in the 7 -to-2 Supreme Court ruling, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the full discretion of police to decide whether a person furnished credible and reliable identification became a convenient tool for harsh and discriminatory enforcement by local officials.

In other action, the court ruled 8 to 1 in a Texas case that children of illegal aliens, even if they are US citizens because they are born in this country, can be denied free public education.

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