University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name In re National Security Letter (3 cases) NS-CA-0001
Docket / Court 3:11-cv-02173-SI ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) National Security
Case Summary
In 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a National Security Letter (NSL) to an electronic communication service provider, seeking certain subscriber information. By certifying that the disclosure of the existence of the NSL may result in "a danger to the national security of the ... read more >
In 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a National Security Letter (NSL) to an electronic communication service provider, seeking certain subscriber information. By certifying that the disclosure of the existence of the NSL may result in "a danger to the national security of the United States, interference with a criminal, counterterrorism, or counterintelligence investigation, interference with diplomatic relations, or danger to the life or physical safety of any person," the federal government was able, by statute, to prohibit the provider from disclosing the existence of the NSL.

On May 2, 2011, the NSL recipient filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to set aside the NSL. The NSL recipient, represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that a nondisclosure provision in the NSL Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2709, violated the First Amendment. More specifically, the petitioner argued that the nondisclosure provision of the statute is an unconstitutional prior restraint and content-based restriction on speech. The federal government opposed the petition, filed a separate lawsuit seeking a declaration that NSL recipient be required to comply with the NSL (Civ. No. 11–2667 (Under Seal)), and filed a motion in this case to compel compliance with the NSL. We have an incomplete docket for the government's declaratory judgment action and no docket for the original case—it's entirely under seal.

On March 14, 2013, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston granted the petition to set aside the NSL, declaring that 18 U.S.C. 2709(c) violated the First Amendment. In re National Sec. Letter, 930 F. Supp. 2d 1064 (2013). The federal government was therefore enjoined from issuing NSLs under 18 U.S.C. § 2709 or from enforcing the nondisclosure provision in this or any other case. However, on May 6, 2013, the government appealed Judge Illston's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On May 23, 2013, the NSL recipient moved to stay proceedings in the district court pending the government's appeal. Judge Illston granted the motion to stay on August 7, 2013.

We do not have access to many of the appellate documents because they have been filed under seal. However, the Ninth Circuit has unsealed various amicus briefs filed by interested parties, as well as two letters from the government. The first letter, dated November 6, 2014, corrected a mistaken statement regarding the government's position on whether companies that receive NSLs can disclose that fact. The second letter, dated February 12, 2015, brought a change in the nondisclosure policy to the court's attention.

However, before the Ninth Circuit could decide on this case, on June 2, 2015, Congress amended both 18 U.S.C. § 2709 and 18 U.S.C. § 3511 as part of the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015. In light of the significant changes to the statutes, on August 24, 2015, the Ninth Circuit issued an order vacating Judge Illston's previous decisions and remanding the case to the district court for the NSL recipient's challenges to the amended statutes.

As of March 2, 2016, we do not have any further updates for the proceedings in the district court as they remain under seal.

Michael Mirdamadi - 11/11/2013
Edward Mroczkowski - 04/20/2015
John He - 03/02/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Warrant/order for search or seizure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Confidentiality
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Terrorism/Post 9-11 issues
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Department of Justice
Plaintiff Description An electronic communication service provider
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 2013 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing NS-CA-0014 : In re: National Security Letter, Under Seal v. Holder (Sealed) (N.D. Cal.)
Docket(s)
3:11−cv−02667 (N.D. Cal.)
NS-CA-0001-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/12/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Petition of Plaintiff to Set Aside National Security Letter and Nondisclosure Requirement Imposed in Connection Herein
NS-CA-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/02/2011
Petition of Plaintiff to Set Aside National Security Letter and Nondisclosure Requirement Imposed in Connection Therewith; Memorandum of Points and Authorities
NS-CA-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/02/2011
Petition of Plaintiff to Set Aside National Security Letter and Nondisclosure Requirement Imposed in Connection Therewith; Memorandum of Points and Authorities
NS-CA-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/02/2011
Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief
NS-CA-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2011
Memorandum in Opposition to Petition to Set Aside National Security Letter
NS-CA-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/22/2011
Memorandum in Support of Motion to Compel Compliance with National Security Letter Request for Information
NS-CA-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/29/2011
Order Granting Motion to Set Aside NSL Letter (930 F.Supp.2d 1064) (N.D. Cal.)
NS-CA-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/14/2013
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Stipulation and [Proposed] Order Regarding Defendant's Responsive Pleasing - Filed Under Seal Pursuant to the Court's Order Dated July 8, 2011
NS-CA-0001-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/15/2013
Source: Bloomberg Law
First Amended Complaint
NS-CA-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/18/2013
Order Granting Motion to Stay and Denying without Prejudice Motion for Judicial Review and Enforcement of National Security Letter (N.D. Cal.)
NS-CA-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/07/2013
Government's Opening Brief
NS-CA-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/17/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appellee Under Seal's Answering Brief in Case No. 13-15957; Appellant Under Seal's Opening Brief in Case No. 13-16731
NS-CA-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/28/2014
Letter from DOJ to 9th Circuit re: Misstatement at Oral Argument
NS-CA-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/06/2014
Fed.R.App.P. 28(j) Letter from DOJ to 9th Circuit
NS-CA-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/12/2015
Appellee/Appellant under seal's supplemental brief re: USA Freedom Act
NS-CA-0001-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/06/2015
Government's Supplemental Brief
NS-CA-0001-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/06/2015
Order
NS-CA-0001-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/24/2015
Judges Illston, Susan Yvonne (N.D. Cal.)
NS-CA-0001-0001 | NS-CA-0001-0011 | NS-CA-0001-0016 | NS-CA-0001-9001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cohn, Cindy A. (California)
NS-CA-0001-0004 | NS-CA-0001-0005 | NS-CA-0001-0007 | NS-CA-0001-0007 | NS-CA-0001-0013 | NS-CA-0001-0014 | NS-CA-0001-0017
Delery, Stuart F. (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0010 | NS-CA-0001-0012
Dyer, Aaron S. (California)
NS-CA-0001-0005 | NS-CA-0001-0007 | NS-CA-0001-0007
Hofmann, Marcia (California)
NS-CA-0001-0004 | NS-CA-0001-0005 | NS-CA-0001-0007 | NS-CA-0001-0007 | NS-CA-0001-0017
Tien, Lee (California)
NS-CA-0001-0004 | NS-CA-0001-0005 | NS-CA-0001-0007 | NS-CA-0001-0007 | NS-CA-0001-0013 | NS-CA-0001-0014 | NS-CA-0001-0017
Zimmerman, Matthew (California)
NS-CA-0001-0004 | NS-CA-0001-0005 | NS-CA-0001-0007 | NS-CA-0001-0007 | NS-CA-0001-0013 | NS-CA-0001-0014 | NS-CA-0001-0017
Defendant's Lawyers Allen, Katherine T. (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0009 | NS-CA-0001-0015
Letter, Douglas (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0012 | NS-CA-0001-0015
Levy, Jonathan H. (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0008 | NS-CA-0001-0012
McIntosh, Scott R. (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0012 | NS-CA-0001-0015
Mizer, Benjamin C. (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0015
Other Lawyers Bressler, Steven Y. (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0002 | NS-CA-0001-0003 | NS-CA-0001-0006 | NS-CA-0001-0010 | NS-CA-0001-0017 | NS-CA-0001-9001
Goldberg, Arthur Robert (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0002 | NS-CA-0001-0003 | NS-CA-0001-0006 | NS-CA-0001-0010 | NS-CA-0001-0017
Haag, Melinda (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0002 | NS-CA-0001-0003 | NS-CA-0001-0006 | NS-CA-0001-0017 | NS-CA-0001-9001
Schraibman, Sandra M. (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0003 | NS-CA-0001-0006 | NS-CA-0001-0017
West, Tony (District of Columbia)
NS-CA-0001-0002 | NS-CA-0001-0003 | NS-CA-0001-0006 | NS-CA-0001-0017

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