While it’s currently engaged in a long-term fight with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Apple has also been embroiled in a dispute over a similar case in New York. In late 2015, the Department of Justice asked a NY federal magistrate judge to order Apple to help authorities gain access to an iPhone seized as evidence in a drug trafficking case.
Yesterday, Judge James Orenstein, who is presiding over the New York case, decided in favor of Apple (via TechCrunch), handing down a ruling that could potentially impact the much more prominent San Bernardino dispute.
The federal judge, Magistrate Judge James Orenstein, says in the ruling that law enforcement agencies cannot use the 18th century All Writs Act as an excuse to ask the court to get Apple to unlock the iPhone recovered in this case. The judge also says that the government’s view and take on the 18th century All Writs act is so far-reaching “as to cast doubt on [its] constitutionality if adopted.” He further says that such a serious issue regarding privacy and technology of 21st century needs to be decided by lawmakers of today, and not by using a law that was formed in the 18th century.
How best to balance those interests is a matter of critical importance to our society, and the need for an answer becomes more pressing daily, as the tide of technological advance flows ever farther past the boundaries of what seemed possible even a few decades ago.
But that debate must happen today, and it must take place among legislators who are equipped to consider the technological and cultural realities of a world their predecessors could not begin to conceive. It would betray our constitutional heritage and our people’s claim to democratic governance for a judge to pretend that our Founders already had that debate, and ended it, in 1789.
The Justice Department was — not surprisingly — “disappointed” with this ruling. Sadly for Apple though, it is all but given that this case will be taken to the appeals court, with both parties already prepared for it to eventually reach the Supreme Court as well.
This decision could definitely play in Apple’s favor against its case vs the FBI in the San Bernardino shooting. Apple had also made similar claims in the case and said that the Congress should come up with a new law keeping in mind the 21st century, and not rely on the All Writs Act that was formed in the 18th century.
New York Judge Says The 18th century All Writs Act Can’t Be Used As An Excuse