State v. Glass

In State v. Glass, 596 P.2d 10 (Alaska 1979) the Alaska Supreme Court, applying the Judd test (Judd v. State, 482 P.2d 273 (Alaska 1971)), held that the new rule requiring the police to obtain a warrant before monitoring or recording a conversation would apply prospectively -- only to those cases where the monitoring or recording took place after the Supreme Court announced the new warrant requirement. There is something to be said for retaining the flexibility of the retroactivity rule in Judd, which allows the court to determine retroactivity on a case-by-case basis, weighing the impact of a new rule of law. In Glass, the Supreme Court concluded that law enforcement officials had reasonably relied on pre-Glass law, that they could not have been expected to foresee the Glass decision, and that their actions "were entirely reasonable and in good faith." The court concluded that "if the rule in Glass were given complete retroactivity so that it would apply to cases already completed, the negative effect on the administration of justice would be substantial." The court noted that, if the Glass rule were applied retroactively, it would impact a number of cases. Many of the cases could have involved serious crimes and would have been harder to prove without the tape recorded conversations. The court reasoned that where the police and prosecuting agencies have reasonably relied upon previously established law, retroactive application of a new rule of law ran the risk of creating disrespect for the legal system: Practical problems arise from the undisputed fact that the police, prosecuting agencies and the public have relied upon the previous statements of the law, and that the great impact of and respect for the law in our society is based on such acceptance by the public generally. A change for the future can be digested but the application of a new interpretation to past conduct which was accepted by previous judicial decisions leads us to confusion and a hesitancy to accept any theory except one of gamesmanship with corresponding disrespect for our whole system of laws. (Id. at 14 (quoting Judd v. State, 482 P.2d 273 at 278-79 (Alaska 1971)).