While Apple and the Justice Department are scheduled to present their arguements in Congress later today for the San Bernardino case, a New York judge has ruled in favor of the Cupertino giant in a different, yet similar case involving FBI demanding access to the iPhone of a drug dealer.
Magistrate Judge Orenstein in Brooklyn ruled the decision in Apple’s favor saying that the government cannot use the All Writs Act to force the Apple to open the phone. The judge also said that Apple was exempted from such a request by another law called Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act which was passed in 1994.
In fact, pretty much voicing the Apple’s opinion in its legal reply to FBI a few days back, Judge Orenstein said that the interpretation of All Writs Act by the government was too broad amounting to be unconstitutional.
The extraordinary relief [the government] seeks cannot be considered “agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” In arguing to the contrary, the government posits a reading of the latter phrase so expansive – and in particular, in such tension with the doctrine of separation of powers – as to cast doubt on the AWA’s constitutionality if adopted,
read the 50 page ruling by Orenstein.
Naturally the decision is met with disagreement from the Justice Department and the government who are planning to appeal in a district court against the decision.
We are disappointed in the Magistrate’s ruling and plan to ask the District Judge to review the matter in the coming days,
said a spokesperson from Department of Justice.
On the other hand, Apple believes the decision would be highly influential in a more serious case of San Bernardino.
Although the decision is unlikely to affect the decision of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym, the judge in the San Bernardino case but the fact that both cases are fundamentally based on the All Writs Act could make the case of Apple slightly stronger.
Moreover, in New York, the authorities had merely asked for the general assistance of unlocking the phone as opposed to Bernardino case where they require Apple to write a different OS altogether.
In the California case, we’re being asked to create something that does not exist. We’re essentially being asked to hack our own phones,
said Apple executives after the ruling.
They further added that the burden the government was trying to impose upon Apple was far more onerous than the situation in New York.
Even if the judge rules against Apple in this case, the New York ruling would help Apple in making a stronger appeal in the higher courts. Apple has already found support from all the major tech companies including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter.