In The Courts: Four Cases to Watch

Four very closely watched cases in separate areas of the law will be argued within a 50-day period that ends April 17th.  Each case could yield a very significant ruling impacting internet law.

February 27: United States v. Microsoft


The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard argument in a dispute over a federal criminal subpoena for email records extended to data stored outside the United States (in this case Ireland).  The lower courts had ruled in favor of Microsoft blocking the production of the emails.

The Supreme Court justices seemed divided over the issue in the oral argument.  A ruling is expected by June.  This decision has been mooted by the passage of the Cloud Act.

March 15:  hiQ Labs v LinkedIn

August 2017, hiQ Labs, Inc. won an injunction barring LinkedIn from blocking access to its service since it scraped data from publicly available information.  The 9th Circuit heard LinkedIn’s appeal last week.

April 3: Hassell v Bird

In 2016, a California appeals court upheld a default judgment order in favor of Dawn Hassell and the Hassell Law Group (“Hassell”) holding defendant Ava Bird liable for defamation and requiring her to remove defamatory reviews she posted about Hassell on Yelp.  Yelp appealed the order, but the court held that Yelp could be required to remove the posts.  
The case is now before the California Supreme Court where Yelp has raised First Amendment, CDA 230 and due process arguments in its appeal, which has been supported by over a dozen amicus briefs submitted by a who’s who of the internet community.

April 17: South Dakota v. Wayfair


As outlined in a recent post, for the past decade, states have been battling with online retailers in state legislatures, the courts and in Congress over when a state may require an online retailer to collect sales tax.  At the center of the debate was the Supreme Court’s decision in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U. S. 298, 311 (1992) which affirmed a bright line rule that retailers need not collect sales tax in states in which they do not have a physical presence.

In a 2015 concurring opinion, however, Justice Kennedy suggested it was time to reconsider this ruling.  South Dakota apparently took the bait and passed legislation requiring tax collection if there was at least $100,000 in sales or 200 separate transactions in the state.  Lower courts invalidated the law as being preempted by Quill.  This argument will be a test of the viability of Quill in the online age.


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  1. Pingback: Congress Passes Cloud Act to Facilitate Cross-Border Sharing of Electronic Communications | Cyber Report

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