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Case Name Microsoft v. U.S. Department of Justice FA-WA-0004
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-00538-JLR ( W.D. Wash. )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) National Security
Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
On April 14, 2016, Microsoft filed this suit seeking declaratory judgment under the Declaratory Judgment Act against the U.S. Department of Justice. The case was assigned to Judge James L. Robart. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiff alleged that the government's use of gag orders to ... read more >
On April 14, 2016, Microsoft filed this suit seeking declaratory judgment under the Declaratory Judgment Act against the U.S. Department of Justice. The case was assigned to Judge James L. Robart. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiff alleged that the government's use of gag orders to prevent the company from telling customers when the government requested their data was unconstitutional. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that sections of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 allowing for the use of such gag orders, and absolving the government from notifying affected individuals facially violates the First Amendment right to free speech, and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.233 F.Supp.3d 887.

On May 26, 2016, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), with Microsoft's support, filed a motion to intervene as an affected organization that uses Microsoft's products. The complaint-in-intervention also alleged that the government's failure to provide notice to affected individuals was unconstitutional. This motion to intervene, along with one other by an unrelated individual, were dismissed in an opinion by Judge Robart on August 28, 2016. That opinion, however, did grant the ACLU amicus curiae status. 2016 WL 4506808.

Many parties, including other technology firms and civil rights organizations, have been granted amicus curiae status for the case.

On July 22, 2016, the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss the suit, alleging a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. A hearing on the motion was held on January 23, 2017.

Following the motion hearing, the Court granted in part and denied in part the Department of Justice' motion to dismiss the claim on February 8, 2017. The Court found the plaintiff had sufficiently made out a claim for an alleged injury as well as a likelihood for future injury under the First Amendment that satisfied the Court's standing inquiry. Additionally, the plaintiff succeeded in persuading the Court that their First Amendment Rights had been violated by the statute even under a lower standard of review than strict scrutiny because the indefinite nondisclosure orders would burden the plaintiff's First Amendment Rights. The plaintiffs also argued the statute as applied was a violation of their First Amendment Rights. The court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's First Amendment claims. However, the Court concluded the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit had consistently held a plaintiff could not bring a third-party Fourth Amendment claim. Therefore, the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim on behalf of their customers was dismissed.

The parties set a trial date for June 4, 2018.

On October 24, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion to dismiss the case without prejudice, which the Court granted on October 25, 2017. The plaintiffs filed this motion in response to the Deputy Attorney General's binding policy update issued on October 19, 2017. The new policy addressed many of the concerns the plaintiffs had with the old policy and prohibited the use of indefinite orders. As such, the plaintiffs felt they were comfortable requesting the court dismiss their claim without prejudice.

This case is closed.

Micah Telegen - 01/22/2017
Taylor Brook - 03/21/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Confidentiality
Other
Website
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) United States
Plaintiff Description Microsoft, Inc.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2016
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Memorandum for Heads of Departmental Law Enforcement Components
https://www.justice.gov/criminal
Date: Oct. 19, 2017
By: Rod J. Rosenstein (US Department of Justice )
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:16-cv-00538-JLR (W.D. Wash.)
FA-WA-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/25/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory Judgment [ECF# 1]
FA-WA-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/04/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint for Declaratory Judgment [ECF# 28]
FA-WA-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/17/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 38]
FA-WA-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/22/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Motions to Intervene [ECF# 46] (2016 WL 4506808) (W.D. Wash.)
FA-WA-0004-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 107] (233 F.Supp.3d 887) (W.D. Wash.)
FA-WA-0004-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/08/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Microsoft Corporation's Unopposed Motion for Voluntary Dismissal [ECF# 117]
FA-WA-0004-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Robart, James L. (W.D. Wash.) show/hide docs
FA-WA-0004-0004 | FA-WA-0004-0005 | FA-WA-0004-0006 | FA-WA-0004-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Berengaut, Alexander A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Doran, Ambika K. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Garland, James M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Goodloe, Katharine Reams (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Handman, Laura R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Howard, David M. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Palmer, Jonathan (Washington) show/hide docs
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Rummage, Stephen M. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Smith, Bradford L. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Brunner, Helen J. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Coppolino, Anthony J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Hayes, Annette L. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Keefe, Kerry J. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Kneedler, Jennie L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Mizer, Benjamin C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Soskin, Eric J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Abdo, Alex (New York) show/hide docs
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Balasubramani, Venkat (Washington) show/hide docs
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Bennard, Kristina Silja (Washington) show/hide docs
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Berlin, Hayley L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Brown, Bruce D. (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Chiang, Emily (Washington) show/hide docs
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Crum, Travis M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Freeburg, David Ian (Washington) show/hide docs
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Gillett, Gabriel (New York) show/hide docs
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Goldman, Jessica L. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Katyal, Neal Kumar (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Kerr, Orin S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Loeb, Robert Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Manes, Johnathan (New York) show/hide docs
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McBride, Ryan P. (Washington) show/hide docs
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McCune, Philip S. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Parris, Mark Steven (Washington) show/hide docs
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Pincus, Andrew J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Roller, Jeremy E. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Scherzer, Aaron W. (New York) show/hide docs
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Siekkinen, Nury (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Sommer, Jacob A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Southwell, Alexander H. (New York) show/hide docs
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Sussmann, Michael A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Sweren-Becker, Eliza (New York) show/hide docs
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Williams, Todd T. (Washington) show/hide docs
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Yanick, Miles Aaron (Washington) show/hide docs
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Zwillinger, Marc J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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