Tracey Maclin ’76, Exclusionary Law Expert

Near the end of each school year comes Alumni Reunion weekend, and with it, a day of honoring several exceptional alumni prior to welcoming our newest crop of alumni at Commencement, which closes out the weekend. This year’s two Distinguished Alumni Award recipients will be honored on June 4 as part of Alumni Reunion 2016 festivities.

Exclusionary Law Expert: Tracey Maclin ’76

An attorney whose career has focused on constitutional law and the Supreme Court, Tracey Maclin ’76 is a nationally recognized expert on the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause. Maclin, who is a professor of law at Boston University School of Law, has served as counsel of record for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Cato Institute in more than a dozen US Supreme Court cases addressing Fourth Amendment issues.

In scores of articles and numerous professional presentations, Maclin has shone a light upon such topics as post-9/11 airport interviews and searches of Middle Eastern Men, traffic stops based on “driving while black,” and unconstitutional searches in public housing complexes. He also grapples with emerging legal issues that have grown out of the digital era. He contributed his Fourth Amendment expertise to a 2013 article by Brian Palmer on Slate.com about how the nation’s Founding Fathers might have viewed the metadata collection revealed by Edward Snowden, and his 2014 article in the Boston University Law Review is called “Cell Phones, Search Incident to Arrest, and the Supreme Court.”

Deep thinking and heavy reading are part and parcel of a law career, and Maclin believes the Englewood School for Boys (which he started at in seventh grade and which became Dwight-Englewood before he graduated) helped to train him for the rigors of constitutional law. “Having several hours of homework to do every day, which I didn’t like at the time, certainly prepared me for my life profession and life generally,” he says. “ESB taught me discipline…I played football in college, and would practice from 3 to 6 p.m., have dinner, and go study in the library for four to five hours a night. It came easy   to me as that’s what I was doing in high school.”

Tracey Maclin says of this photo from the 1970-71 ESB yearbook: “That is my all-time favorite picture of me—wearing a New York Jets skull hat throwing a snowball.”

Tracey Maclin says of this photo from the 1970-71 ESB yearbook: “That is my all-time favorite picture of me—wearing a New York Jets skull hat throwing a snowball.”

He can still rattle off the names of many faculty members who had an impact on him: Carlton Colyer, English; Fred Hutchins, English; Karl Zimmermann ESB ʼ61, who “scared the hell out of me”; Joe DeWitt, biology; Nancy McEwen, chemistry; and Malcolm Duffy, English, who “scared me but doesn’t scare me anymore.” Maclin, who was a student during the merger of the Englewood School for Boys and the all-girl Dwight School in 1974, also says that “classes were better” after they became co-ed.

Following his graduation from D-E, Maclin earned his BA, magna cum laude, from Tufts University and then went to earn his JD from Columbia University’s School of Law in 1983. After brief stints as law clerk and as an attorney at a New York law firm, he was recruited to teach at the University of Kentucky College of Law. Two years later he moved to Boston University School of Law, where in 1995 he received the university’s highest teaching award, the Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching. That same year, he was listed as one of 40 lawyers under the age of 40 who were named “Rising Stars in the Law” by the National Law Journal. Other accolades early in his career included being appointed by Secretary of State William Galvin to a five-year term as a commissioner on the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission in 2003 and serving a two-year term as the president of the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Massachusetts from 2002 to 2004.

Maclin’s comprehensive 416-page book, The Supreme Court and the Fourth Amendment’s Exclusionary Rule (Oxford University Press, 2012), is a deep examination of what lies behind the Supreme Court Justices’ decisions related to search and seizure. As he noted in an interview for SCOTUSblog.com (the blog of the Supreme Court), “…having taught constitutional law and criminal procedure for over 25 years, I have learned, however, that although a Court opinion might provide the justification for a particular result, that opinion may not reveal the motivations for the decision. I decided it was time to read the Justices’ private papers to determine the motivations behind their exclusionary rule decisions.” He noted that while he did not enjoy the hours and hours of archival research required to write the book, the enterprise was well worth the effort: “The project was rewarding because I learned how the Justices analyzed Fourth Amendment issues, how they attempted to persuade one another, and why, on certain occasions, they changed their votes.”

Tracey Maclin’s labor in search of deeper understanding and better legal analysis exemplifies the advice he has for students: Hard work never hurt anybody.


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