The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Microsoft Ireland warrant case. As regular readers know, this is the case on whether Microsoft has to comply with a search warrant obtained in the United States that orders Microsoft to retrieve customer files Microsoft has stored in Ireland.
Of course, the court already has pending Carpenter v. United States, a constitutional case on whether the Fourth Amendment protects historical cell-site records. Between Carpenter and Microsoft, it’s shaping up to be a really big Supreme Court term for digital evidence collection.
It’s particularly notable that the court granted cert in both Carpenter and Microsoft without waiting for a circuit split. It’s typical for the justices to wait for lower courts to divide on an issue before they will step in. Relying on splits uses lower-court disagreement as a signal for the kind of difficult and important issues that the justices need to resolve. It’s dangerous to read too much into just two grants. But it’s plausible that the splitless grants in both Carpenter and Microsoft signal a recognition among the justices of the tremendous importance of digital evidence collection. Whatever the right answers are, the justices need to provide them.
As always, stay tuned.