January 16, 2015 12:31PM

Is a Sock Drug Paraphernalia?

Yes, according to the attorney general. And the "crime" of possessing drug paraphernalia is serious enough to warrant deportation of a legal permanent resident:

At the U. S. Supreme Court Wednesday, the question before the justices boiled down to whether a sock can be considered drug paraphernalia.

Each year 30-35,000 people are deported for drug crimes. But federal law does not treat all drug crimes equally. The question before the justices was whether the government can deport legal permanent residents for minor drug offenses.

Moones Mellouli came to the U.S. on a student visa from Tunisia in 2004. He graduated with honors, then went on to earn two master's degrees—in applied mathematics and economics—from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He became a lawful permanent resident, worked as an actuary, and taught mathematics at the university.

But in 2010, he was arrested for driving under the influence and having four Adderall pills in his sock. Adderall is a drug prescribed to treat hyperactivity, but it's widely used by students and others to study and stay awake. Millouli pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for possession of drug paraphernalia—namely the sock in which he had the four pills. He got a suspended sentence plus a year's probation, and he was subsequently deported.

He appealed his deportation all the way to the Supreme Court.

Happily, the world is not entirely crazy: the justices were quite skeptical of the goverment's position:

The government's argument that these paraphernalia convictions all justify deportation was greeted by the justices with unabashed incredulity.

"Because of the sock," the crime justifies deportation, asked a wide-eyed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"Do you think a sock is more than tenuously related to these federal drugs?" piled on Justice Antonin Scalia.

The best one-liner, however, came from Justice Elena Kagan (former dean of Harvard Law School):

He had four pills of Adderall, which if you go to half the colleges in America ... and just randomly pick somebody, you'd find Adderall.

Apparently "that brought the house down, and probably the government's case too."