DOJ wants new judge to reverse pro Apple All Writs Act ruling

With just days before the court clash between Apple and the FBI in the San Bernardino case, the US Justice Department is gathering all the ammo it can get. Or, in this case, trying to divest Apple of such ammo. It has requested that a different federal judge reverse a ruling in a different New York case also involving Apple and the unlocking of an iPhone. There, the judge ruled that the use of the All Writs Act in this case was unconstitutional, which Apple immediately cited for its California case.

The specifics of the New York case are quite different from that of San Bernardino. The current case in question involves a drug trafficking charges against a certain Jun Feng. And here, it is the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with the help of the FBI, that was applying the All Writs Act to compel Apple to unlock the iPhone. Although Feng would later plead guilty anyway, the government didn't withdraw its motion.

Presiding judge James Orenstein, however, would rule in favor of Apple. He says that the use of the writ was unconstitutional overreach and sided with Apple's views of possible abuse should the writ be granted. He said that even Congress shied away from actually granting that authority for the very same reason.

The Justice Department, however, argues that Orenstein overlooked this one and only instance to focus on "unfounded fears" of future abuses. The same mantra of "we're really only using it for this one, single, specific case" can be heard. If believed, however, that would mean there are already two specific cases anyway, one in New York and one in California.

This is the slippery slope that Apple has been alluding to from the beginning. Already there are dozens of seized iPhones waiting for judges to rule in the FBI's favor so that they too can be unlocked. Considering how both sides may use this New York case as a precedent for their San Bernardino case, the outcome of the appeal could help set the tone in this month's court hearing.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal