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-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law



Friday, February 26, 2016

Apple Responds to DOJ

 Yesterday Apple Inc. (Apple) filed its response to the Department of Justice (DOJ)'s demand that it decrypt an accused terrorist's iPhone.  For those not following the details of this case, here is a brief summary of the legal dispute:

The government's case for compelling Apple to decrypt the phone is the All Writs Act, a law that allows judges to issue writs necessary to enforce the law.  This Act was interpreted by the1977 Supreme Court case US v. New York Telephone, in which the Court ruled that the All Writs Act allowed a judge to order the phone company to comply with a special kind of wiretap even though Congress had not passed a law authorizing that particular wiretap.  The DOJ is invoking this argument given that the Federal government has so far declined to pursue legislation requiring companies to provide the government with backdoor access to consumer electronics.

The public now has a preview of the other side of the caset: Apple's motion lays out an argument that this case does not involve facts equivalent to those of New York Telephone and that creating new software would be unduly burdensome; more significantly, makes a case that statutory protections written telecommunications providers are the appropriate laws to apply in this case, and not the All Writs Act.

Given the rapid advancement of technology and its incorporation into everyday life, the precedent this case will set when the question of which law is appropriate is finally settled will likely have significant implications for the development of technology and popular culture in America.

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