Court Battles

DOJ asks Supreme Court to dismiss case against Microsoft


The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to toss out its case against Microsoft over whether law enforcement can search and seize data stored overseas, citing language that was included in last month’s $1.3 trillion spending bill. 

In a 16-page motion filed Friday, Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the spending bill resolved the question before the court; namely, whether a service provider responding to a probable-cause based warrant issued under the Stored Communications Act has to produce information within its “possession, custody, or control,” regardless of whether its stored inside or outside of the United States. 

The spending bill, which President Trump signed into law last month, included the bipartisan Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data, or CLOUD, Act, which allows investigators to obtain electronic data stored anywhere in the world by technology firms.

The justices heard arguments in the Microsoft case in February. 

The government was appealing a ruling from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of Microsoft, which argued that under the Stored Communications Act it did not have to turn over customer emails that were stored on servers in Dublin.

At arguments, Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the court should wait for Congress to resolve the issue. 

Francisco told the court on Friday the case is now moot, given the new law, and asked the justices to vacate the lower court ruling.  

“Under the CLOUD Act, Microsoft must produce information of the sort requested here,” he wrote. 

Francisco said the government applied for and a magistrate judge issued a new warrant on March 30. 

“Under the new warrant, which will replace the original warrant and which the CLOUD Act indisputably governs, Microsoft must produce any covered information within its ‘possession, custody, or control,’ ” he wrote. “Microsoft no longer has any basis for suggesting that such a warrant is impermissibly extraterritorial because it reaches foreign-stored data, which was the sole contention in its motion to quash.”

The government is seeking emails it believes a Microsoft customer sent while trafficking drugs.

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