I haven’t blogged recently about the Ninth Circuit’s blockbuster computer search and seizure decision in United States v. Comprehensive Drug Testing, although not because it hasn’t been on my mind: Among computer crime law folks, it’s topic #1 these days. Indeed, since the en banc decision was handed down, it seems that every conference and informal gathering in the field eventually morphs into trying to figure out what the majority
was smoking opinion means, how judges should comply with it, how law enforcement should respond to it, and whether and how long it will be until it is overturned.
Closer to home, I had to make a quick decision whether to put the opinion into the 2nd edition of my computer crime law casebook, which is at the printers right now. I ended up deciding not to include it, as I think the odds favor it being overturned within a year or two. I figured it was better to include the opinion in a supplement in the meantime rather than include it in the main book, as you can easily take a case out of a supplement but not the book itself.
But exactly how the case was going to be overturned is another matter. The most remarkable parts of the opinion are just lists of new rules, announced without any apparent authority or even a case or controversy. We don’t yet know if DOJ plans to file a cert petition in the case, although the procedural posture is tricky: DOJ could try to challenge some other aspect of the case and get that part scrapped in the process, but it’s hard to mount a direct challenge to what seems to be dicta. The main alternative for DOJ would be to let this case stand, let the system [...]