The case in which Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is seeking to change the ability of the United States government to prevent firms from informing their clients that they are being investigated took an unexpected twist when a federal judge admitted he didn’t know how to proceed. This was during a motion by the Department of Justice to have the suit dismissed but which Microsoft countered by asserting that nothing prohibited it from what it was seeking and the suit, therefore, deserved to move ahead.
“I have to confess to being in a dilemma. The frequent use of ‘There is no case that says . . .’ is this court’s problem,” said Justice James L. Robart, the presiding U.S. District Court Judge.
No existing precedent
Because there is no precedent, circumstances might force Robart to come up with a new law, something which courts are usually hesitant to do. The judge will give a written decision in the coming days or weeks. If the decision is in Microsoft’s favor, it will make the prospects of a trial more likely. If the Fourth Amendment and the First Amendment arguments by Microsoft are knocked down and the ruling is made in the government’s favor, the suit will be dismissed.
First and Fourth Amendments
More than eight months ago Microsoft filed a case seeking to have a federal law that prevents Microsoft and other technology firms from telling their clients when the authorities obtain warrants to look at cloud data and emails that may be stored on the servers of the particular companies. The part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that has been challenged by Microsoft is Section 2705(b).
In its Fourth Amendment argument, Microsoft states that citizens and organizations are entitled to know when their property is seized or searched by the government. Its First Amendment argument, on the other hand, states that the Redmond, Washington-based software maker is entitled to inform its clients of the government’s warrants and it is only restricted in doing so by specific restraints.
In Monday’s trading, Microsoft Corporation rose by 0.35% to close the day at $62.96 a share.