United States v. Microsoft Corp., 584 U.S. ___ (2018)

Justia Opinion Summary and Annotations

In 2013, federal agents obtained an 18 U.S.C. 2703 warrant requiring Microsoft to disclose all e-mails and other information associated with a customer's account that was believed to be involved in illegal drug trafficking. Microsoft determined that the account’s e-mail contents were all stored in Microsoft’s Dublin, Ireland datacenter and moved, unsuccessfully, to quash the warrant with respect to that information. The court held Microsoft in civil contempt. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that requiring Microsoft to disclose the electronic communications in question would be an unauthorized extraterritorial application of section 2703. In March 2018, Congress enacted and the President signed the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act), Pub. L. 115–141, amending the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701, to add: “A [service provider] shall comply with the obligations of this chapter to preserve, backup, or disclose the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information pertaining to a customer or subscriber within such provider’s possession, custody, or control, regardless of whether such communication, record, or other information is located within or outside of the United States.” The Supreme Court vacated, finding the case moot. No live dispute remains between the parties over the issue with respect to which certiorari was granted; a new warrant replaced the original warrant.

Annotation

Primary Holding

Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (2018) rendered moot a challenge to a warrant requiring Microsoft to disclose electronic communications stored overseas.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

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No. 17–2

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UNITED STATES, PETITIONER v. MICROSOFT CORPORATION

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit

[April 17, 2018]

Per Curiam.

The Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether, when the Government has obtained a warrant under 18 U. S. C. §2703, a U. S. provider of e-mail services must disclose to the Government electronic communications within its control even if the provider stores the communications abroad. 583 U. S. ___ (2017).

In December 2013, federal law enforcement agents applied to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for a §2703 warrant requiring Microsoft to disclose all e-mails and other information associated with the account of one of its customers. Satisfied that the agents had demonstrated probable cause to believe that the account was being used to further illegal drug trafficking, a Magistrate Judge issued the requested §2703 warrant. App. 22–26. The warrant directed Microsoft to disclose to the Government the contents of a specified e-mail account and all other records or information associated with the account “[t]o the extent that the information . . . is within [Microsoft’s] possession, custody, or control.” Id., at 24.

After service of the §2703 warrant, Microsoft determined that the account’s e-mail contents were stored in a sole location: Microsoft’s datacenter in Dublin, Ireland. Id., at 34. Microsoft moved to quash the warrant with respect to the information stored in Ireland. The Magistrate Judge denied Microsoft’s motion. In re Warrant To Search a Certain E-Mail Account Controlled and Maintained by Microsoft Corp., 15 F. Supp. 3d 466 (SDNY 2014). The District Court, after a hearing, adopted the Magistrate Judge’s reasoning and affirmed his ruling. See In re Warrant To Search a Certain E-Mail Account Controlled and Maintained by Microsoft Corp., 829 F. 3d 197, 204–205 (CA2 2016). Soon after, acting on a stipulation submitted jointly by the parties, the District Court held Microsoft in civil contempt for refusing to comply fully with the warrant. Id., at 205. On appeal, a panel of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the denial of the motion to quash and vacated the civil contempt finding, holding that requiring Microsoft to disclose the electronic communications in question would be an unauthorized extraterritorial application of §2703. Id., at 222.

The parties now advise us that on March 23, 2018, Congress enacted and the President signed into law the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act), as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, Pub. L. 115–141. The CLOUD Act amends the Stored Communications Act, 18 U. S. C. §2701 et seq., by adding the following provision:

“A [service provider] shall comply with the obligations of this chapter to preserve, backup, or disclose the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information pertaining to a customer or subscriber within such provider’s possession, custody, or control, regardless of whether such communication, record, or other information is located within or outside of the United States.” CLOUD Act §103(a)(1).

Soon thereafter, the Government obtained, pursuant to the new law, a new §2703 warrant covering the information requested in the §2703 warrant at issue in this case.

No live dispute remains between the parties over the issue with respect to which certiorari was granted. See Department of Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms v. Galioto, 477 U. S. 556, 559 (1986) . Further, the parties agree that the new warrant has replaced the original warrant. This case, therefore, has become moot. Following the Court’s established practice in such cases, the judgment on review is accordingly vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit with instructions first to vacate the District Court’s contempt finding and its denial of Microsoft’s motion to quash, then to direct the District Court to dismiss the case as moot.

It is so ordered.

April 12, 2017 Application (16A972) to extend the time to file a petition for a writ of certiorari from April 24, 2017 to May 24, 2017, submitted to Justice Ginsburg.
April 12, 2017 Application (16A972) granted by Justice Ginsburg extending the time to file until May 24, 2017.
May 12, 2017 Application (16A972) to extend further the time from May 24, 2017 to June 23, 2017, submitted to Justice Ginsburg.
May 15, 2017 Application (16A972) granted by Justice Ginsburg extending the time to file until June 23, 2017.
June 23, 2017 Petition for a writ of certiorari filed. (Response due July 27, 2017)
July 20, 2017 Order extending time to file response to petition to and including August 28, 2017.
July 27, 2017 Brief amici curiae of The States of Vermont, et al. filed.
August 28, 2017 Brief of respondent Microsoft Corporation in opposition filed.
September 13, 2017 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 10/6/2017.
September 13, 2017 Reply of petitioner United States filed. (Distributed)
September 15, 2017 Supplemental brief of respondent Microsoft Corporation filed. (Distributed)
October 10, 2017 DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 10/13/2017.
October 16, 2017 Petition GRANTED.
November 1, 2017 The time to file the joint appendix and petitioner's brief on the merits is extended to and including December 6, 2017.
November 1, 2017 The time to file respondent's brief on the merits is extended to and including January 11, 2018.
November 9, 2017 Blanket Consent filed by Petitioner, United States
November 9, 2017 Blanket Consent filed by respondent, Microsoft Corporation.
December 6, 2017 Brief of petitioner United States filed.
December 6, 2017 Joint appendix filed.
December 13, 2017 Brief amici curiae of Former Law Enforcement, National Security, and Intelligence Officials in support of neither party filed.
December 13, 2017 Brief amicus curiae of European Commission on Behalf of the European Union in support of neither party filed.
December 13, 2017 Brief amici curiae of Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in support of neither party filed.
December 13, 2017 Brief amici curiae of Electronic Discovery Institute, et al., in support of neither party filed.
December 13, 2017 Brief amicus curiae of The New Zealand Privacy Commissioner in support of neither party filed.
December 13, 2017 Brief amici curiae of The States of Vermont, et al. filed.
December 13, 2017 Brief amicus curiae of Ireland in support of neither party filed.
December 13, 2017 Brief amicus curiae of U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy Joseph Cannataci in support of neither partyfiled.
December 20, 2017 SET FOR ARGUMENT ON Tuesday, February 27, 2018
January 5, 2018 CIRCULATED
January 10, 2018 Record requested from the U.S.C.A. 2nd Circuit.
January 11, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie e.V., Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag e.V., Ibec clg, Konfederacja Lewiatan, and Mouvement des Enterprises de France filed. (Distributed)
January 11, 2018 Brief of respondent Microsoft Corporation filed. (Distributed)
January 17, 2018 Record received from the U.S.D.C. Southern District of New York is electronic and located on PACER, with the exception of 1 envelope of Sealed Documents.
January 17, 2018 Record received from the U.S.C.A. 2nd Circuit is electronic.
January 17, 2018 Brief amicus curiae of 51 Computer Scientists filed. (Distributed)
January 17, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Competitive Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, TechFreedom, American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Members of Congress filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amicus curiae of Policing Project at New York University School of Law filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amicus curiae of Washington Legal Foundation filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Electronic Privacy Information Center, et al. filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of 12 Business and Consumer Associations filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of EU Data Protection and Privacy Scholars filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of InternetLab Law and Technology Center filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of DIGITALEUROPE, BITKOM, TECH IN France, Syntec Numerique, and Other European National Trade Organizations filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, et al. filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, et al. filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Fourth Amendment Scholars filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of International and Extraterritorial Law Scholars filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Jan Philipp Albrecht, Sophie in ’t Veld, Viviane Reding, Birgit Sippel, and Axel Voss filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Digital Rights Ireland Limited and the Open Rights Group filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amicus curiae of Gesellschaft fur Freiheitsrechte e.V. filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Privacy International, Human and Digital Rights Organizations, and International Legal Scholars filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amicus curiae of European Company Lawyers Association filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Technology Companies filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amicus curiae of International Business Machines Corporation filed. (Distributed)
January 18, 2018 Brief amici curiae of Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe filed. (Distributed)
February 12, 2018 Reply of petitioner United States filed. (Distributed)
February 27, 2018 Argued. For petitioner: Michael R. Dreeben, Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, Washington, D. C. For respondent: E. Joshua Rosenkranz, New York, N. Y.
March 23, 2018 Letter of petitioner United States advising the Court of newly enacted legislation filed. (Distributed)
March 30, 2018 Motion to vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case with directions to dismiss as moot filed by petitioner United States.
April 3, 2018 Response to motion to vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case with directions to dismiss as moot from respondent Microsoft Corporation filed.
April 4, 2018 Motion DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 4/20/2018.
April 17, 2018 Judgment VACATED and case REMANDED. Opinion per curiam.
May 21, 2018 JUDGMENT ISSUED.
Prior History
  • Microsoft v. United States, No. 14-2985 (2d Cir. Jul. 14, 2016)
  • Microsoft appealed from the district court's order denying its motion to quash a warrant issued under section 2703 of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. 2701 et seq., and holding Microsoft in contempt of court for refusing to execute the warrant on the government’s behalf. The warrant directed Microsoft to seize and produce the contents of an e‐mail account - an account believed to be used in furtherance of narcotics trafficking - that it maintains for a customer who uses the company’s electronic communications services. Microsoft produced its customer’s non‐content information to the government, as directed. That data was stored in the United States. But Microsoft ascertained that, to comply fully with the warrant, it would need to access customer content that it stores and maintains in Ireland and to import that data into the United States for delivery to federal authorities. The court concluded that Congress did not intend the SCA’s warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially. The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interests. Accordingly, the SCA does not authorize a United States court to issue and enforce an SCA warrant against a United States‐based service provider for the contents of a customer’s electronic communications stored on servers located outside the United States. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court lacked authority to enforce the warrant against Microsoft. The court reversed the denial of the motion to quash because Microsoft has complied with the warrant’s domestic directives and resisted only its extraterritorial aspect; vacated the finding of civil contempt; and remanded with instructions to the district court to quash the warrant insofar as it directs Microsoft to collect, import, and produce to the government customer content stored outside the United States.

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