Justice Dept. appeals Apple case in New York


The federal government on Monday appealed a judge’s decision preventing it from forcing Apple to access a locked iPhone in a New York drug case.

The case, which Magistrate Judge James Orenstein decided last week, is separate from but in some ways similar to a higher profile legal standoff in California, which centers on a locked iPhone used by one of the killers in last December’s San Bernardino terror attack.

The New York phone runs a different operating system than the one in San Bernardino, and the government's requests differ in what they need Apple to do to extract data from the phone.

Yet both cases rely on a two-century old law called the All Writs Act, and are thought to be test cases of the government’s ability to force tech companies to break into their users’ devices. 

Last week, Orenstein ruled in favor of Apple, claiming that the government’s position had no “principled limit on how far a court may go in requiring a person or company to violate the most deeply-rooted values to provide assistance to the government the court deems necessary.”

The government claimed at the time that it would appeal the decision to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The move was widely expected.

In a filing on Monday afternoon, Justice Department lawyers claimed that Orenstein’s legal analysis “goes far afield of the circumstances of this case and sets forth an unprecedented limitation on federal courts’ authority pursuant to the All Writs Act to issue orders in aid of their jurisdiction.”

Apple fired back in a statement Monday night. 

"Judge Orenstein ruled the FBI’s request would 'thoroughly undermine fundamental principles of the Constitution’ and we agree," the company said. "We share the judge’s concern that misuse of the All Writs Act would start us down a slippery slope that threatens everyone’s safety and privacy."

Updated 9:42 p.m.