Briefing Room


Note on drone surveillance wins Burton Award

July 10, 2014 | Students

In a recent ceremony at the Library of Congress, Jonathan Olivito ’14 received recognition for a note he published in the Ohio State Law Journal, entitled “Beyond the Fourth Amendment: Limiting Drone Surveillance Through the Constitutional Right to Informational Privacy.”

Olivito is the second Moritz graduate to win a prestigious Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing;  Noah Litton ’13 received a Burton Award in 2013 for his note, “The Road to Better Redistricting: Empirical Analysis and State-Based Reforms to Counter Partisan Gerrymandering.” Law schools are only allowed to submit one entry, and Olivito’s was one of 15 student submissions to be recognized nationwide.

The Burton Awards were established in 1999 to celebrate achievements in law, ranging from legal writing to reforms in law. Olivito accepted his award at a black-tie event in Washington, D.C. before an audience of approximately 500 guests. Dignitaries included many of the managing partners and partners of the largest law firms in the United States, judges, law school deans, and professors from across the nation.

“It was a great honor. I was happy to represent The Ohio State University in their second win of the Burton Awards,” Olivito said of the experience. “It is a testament to the strength of our legal writing program and to the education we receive here.” Another highlight of the evening according to Olivito: a stand-up performance by comedian Jay Leno.

Olivito’s note focuses on privacy concerns posed by the widespread domestic use of drones for surveillance purposes.

“I thought it would be an interesting topic because it is rather timely, given how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in 2015, is supposed to integrate drones into the national airspace,” Olivito explained. “That brings up some potentially troubling questions about how drones will be regulated in terms of invasions of privacy.”

He argues for a federal constitutional right to informational privacy that would regulate the use of drones when they are used in the domestic surveillance of individuals.

“The way that I wrote it, it was meant to balance the concerns of privacy advocates with the government’s interest in domestic security,” he added.

Olivito said he is currently studying for the bar exam, but he plans to join Dahman Law for one year following the exam. After that, he plans to clerk for Judge Edmund Sargus, Jr., a federal judge serving on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.