Apple just won a major victory in an iPhone warrant case — although it may not help the company in its San Bernardino trial. The victory comes from a New York district court that’s been facing something legally similar to the higher-profile warrant case playing out in San Bernardino. In a 50-page ruling, Magistrate Judge Orenstein found that the All Writs Act did not prove the government’s request, and denied the government’s request to legally compel Apple’s help.
This particular case, the FBI demanded Apple help unlock an iPhone belonging to Jun Feng, a suspected drug dealer. Although the ruling has no direct legal impact on whether Apple will be forced to help the FBI create a back door into the iPhone that belonged to San Bernardino mass shooter Syed Farook, the ruling does set a precedent in Apple’s favor.
Orenstein, in his ruling, stated that the government is not able to compel Apple to cooperate under the All Writs Act, a law which was first drafted in 1789 that is also cited by the FBI in the San Bernardino case.
There is no factor in the Brooklyn case, including the burden that the government’s request would put on Apple, “justifies imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will,” the ruling reads.
In a call with reporters on Monday, an Apple senior executive stated that this was the first real opportunity any court had to consider government requests that ask Apple to facilitate breaking into an iPhone under the All Writs Act. The executive called the FBI’s back door request in San Bernardino “far more onerous than the situation in New York” because the iPhone in the San Bernardino case has a newer software version that would require more effort to decrypt. “In the California case, we’re being asked to create something that does not exist. We’re essentially being asked to hack our own phones,” executives said. “Because the issue in San Bernardino is iOS 8, the burden the government is trying to impose upon Apple is far more onerous than the situation in New York.”