In re 381 Search Warrants Directed to Facebook, Inc.
Decision Date: April 4, 2017
The New York State Court of Appeals affirmed that internet service providers cannot appeal a judge's decision to issue search warrants in a criminal case, even in situations where the internet service provider believes the search warrants violate its users' constitutional rights. In July 2013, the lower court of New York issued 381 warrants that required Facebook to hand over the personal data of its users implicated in a Social Security Disability fraud criminal investigation. Facebook filed a motion to quash the warrants arguing that they were unconstitutionally overbroad, violated the privacy rights of their users, and had serious Fourth Amendment implications. The lower court denied the motion finding that Facebook did not have the standing to raise constitutional concerns on behalf of its users. The Court of Appeals concluded that it was unable to rule on the constitutional issues and was constrained by law to dismiss Facebook's appeals because it lacked statutory authority and therefore did not have jurisdiction to review a determination in a criminal proceeding.
This case dealt a blow to those seeking to expand internet privacy protections and the attempt by Facebook to fight what it considers to be fishing expeditions by prosecutors. Facebook has said it is considering its options and whether to take the case to the federal courts.
Nwanguma et al v. Trump et al
Decision Date: March 31, 2017
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky Louisville Division upheld protesters right to claim for damages on various counts including assault and battery against audience members who attacked them, and against Trump and his campaign for inciting violence and negligence. Three individuals attended a Donald Trump for President rally with the intent to peacefully protest but when then-Presidential Candidate Donald Trump noticed them in the crowd he stated, "get 'em out of here." In response, audience members Heimbach and Bamberger, as well as an unknown individual, began to physically attack the protesters in an alleged effort to remove them from the hall. Applying the three-part test from Brandenberg v. Ohios, the Court found it plausible that Trump’s speech advocated the use of force; that whether or not the Defendants intended for the violence to occur is a matter to be litigated; and that the requirement that violence was likely to result was met by allegations that violence actually occurred. Notably, the District Court rejected the defense that Trump’s speech was constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment, stating "The law is clear....that '[s]peech that falls within th[e] category of incitement is not entitled to First Amendment protection." With regard to the negligence claim, the Court reasoned that the complaint sufficiently established that Trump had a duty of care to the Plaintiffs and their harm was foreseeable. In these circumstances, the Court found the Plaintiffs’ incitement to riot claim plausible and denied the motion to dismiss.
J. Hale referred the matter to Magistrate Judge H. Brent Brennenstuhl for resolution of litigation planning
Elrod v. Burns
Decision Date: June 28, 1976
The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the lower court to grant a preliminary injunction in favor of employees who were threatened with discharge from their posts at the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff's Office due to their imputed political opinions. Following the election of a Sheriff from the Democratic political party, individuals in his office who failed to align with or did not have the express support of the Democratic Party were threatened with discharge from their employment with one individual actually being discharged. The Court reasoned that patronage employment to the extent that it compels or limits political belief and association was completely contrary to the First Amendment. However, it acknowledged that the First Amendment was not absolute and restraints were permissible but only on certain conditions and for appropriate reasons: the state action must meet a standard of exacting scrutiny; the action cannot merely be justified by the existence of a legitimate state interest, that interest must be paramount; and the burden falls on the state to prove the existence of such a vital interest. The Petitioners in this case had failed to meet the exacting standard required and the employees had a valid claim for relief. Further, the employees were entitled to injunctive relief because First Amendment interests were either threatened or had been impaired and the loss of First Amendment freedoms unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.