DC Magistrate Leads Fight to Rein in Digital Evidence


Judges at the lowest levels of the federal judiciary are balking at sweeping requests by law enforcement officials for cellphone and other sensitive personal data, declaring the demands overly broad and at odds with basic constitutional rights, says the Washington Post. This rising assertiveness by magistrate judges — the worker bees of the federal court system — has produced rulings that elate civil libertarians and frustrate investigators, forcing them to meet or challenge tighter rules for collecting electronic evidence.

Among the most aggressive opinions have come from D.C. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, who in recent months has blocked wide-ranging access to the Facebook page of Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis and the iPhone of the Georgetown University student accused of making ricin in his dorm room. In another case, he deemed a law enforcement request for the entire contents of an e-mail account “repugnant” to the U.S. Constitution. He is part of a small but growing faction, including judges in Texas, Kansas, New York and Pennsylvania, who have penned decisions seeking to check the reach of federal law enforcement power in the digital world.

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