[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday denied [order list, PDF] the petition for certiorari in a case challenging the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [backgrounder] April order [text] requiring Verizon [corporate website] to turn over data to the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] including US telephone calls and Internet exchanges. The case, brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website] questioned [mandamus petition; PDF]
whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court exceeded its narrow statutory authority to authorize foreign intelligence surveillance, under 50 USC § 1861 [text], when it ordered Verizon to disclose records to the National Security Agency for all telephone communications “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
EPIC’s petition to the Supreme Court was filed directly without any action by lower courts. The advocacy group had sought to vacate the FISC’s April order and block future similar orders or, for the Supreme Court to review the individual order.
The revelations surrounding NSA surveillance programs [JURIST backgrounder] have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. In September the FISC released [JURIST report] a previously classified opinion [text, PDF] explaining why a NSA program to keep records of Americans’ phone calls is constitutional. Also in September the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] urged the Obama administration [JURIST report] to curb the FBI’s surveillance powers. In August the Council of Europe [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over the UK reaction to the exposure of the US surveillance program. Lawmakers have also called for a criminal investigation into the activities of Edward Snowden, who came forward in early June as the whistleblower in the NSA surveillance scandal [JURIST podcast]. JURIST Guest Columnist Christina Wells argues that the broad provisions of the Espionage Act [text], under which Snowden is charged, raise significant First Amendment concerns [JURIST op-ed].
In addition to denying certiorari on Monday, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases. The first, Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc. [cert. petition, PDF] challenges the court’s 1988 decision in Basic Inc. v. Levinson [text]. Halliburton Co. [corporate website] has faced numerous lawsuits concerning allegations the company put out seriously misleading information in order to manipulate its stock prices. In Basic, Inc. the court adopted the fraud-on-the-market [17 CFR 240.10b-5] presumption, ruling that investors in securities-fraud cases do not need to prove their reliance on misleading statements from a company in order to bring a successful claim. Halliburton has argued that the Basic, Inc. decision is outdated and no longer represents the economic reality and must be overturned.
The second case, Plumhoff v. Rickard [cert. petition, PDF], was brought on appeal by six police officers who claim qualified legal immunity to a civil lawsuit filed by the daughter of a man killed when he lost control of his vehicle after being shot by police officers following a high-speed pursuit along the border of Arkansas and Tennessee. The case is closely related to the court’s 2007 decision, Scott v. Harris [text], where the court held that police did not use excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment [text] when they rammed a car during a high-speed pursuit in order to stop a suspect who, as a result of the incident, was rendered quadriplegic.