U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday sided against fellow Associate Justice Clarence Thomas for the first time since her appointment to the court in a case that concerned computer law, according to the Washington Examiner.
The case concerned Georgia police Sgt. Nathan Van Buren, and whether he broke the law after accepting outside payment to search for a license plate using his police computer. Previously, lower courts had ruled that Van Buren not only violated the police department’s rule, but also broke federal law by overreaching his ''authorized access.''
However, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Van Buren, 6-3, with Barrett writing the majority opinion limiting the ability of prosecutors to charge people with computer crimes under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.
"This provision covers those who obtain information from particular areas in the computer — such as files, folders, or databases — to which their computer access does not extend," she wrote. "It does not cover those who, like Van Buren, have improper motives for obtaining information that is otherwise available to them.''
The justice noted that had the majority accepted the broad interpretation of the law, it could cause millions of people who use their work computers for personal matters to face prosecution.
"If the 'exceeds authorized access' clause criminalizes every violation of a computer-use policy, then millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens are criminals," Barrett continued. "Take the workplace. Employers commonly state that computers and electronic devices can be used only for business purposes. So on the government's reading of the statute, an employee who sends a personal e-mail or reads the news using her work computer has violated the CFAA."
Barrett was joined by associate justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Stephen Breyer; Thomas was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito in the minority. This case is also the first time that all of the justices appointed by then-President Donald Trump — Barrett, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — all sided with the court’s liberal members.
"The text makes one thing clear,'' Thomas wrote in his dissent, referring to the 1986 CFAA. ''Using a police database to obtain information in circumstances where that use is expressly forbidden is a crime."
He added: "The question here is straightforward: Would an ordinary reader of the English language understand Van Buren to have 'exceed[ed] authorized access' to the database when he used it under circumstances that were expressly forbidden? In my view, the answer is yes. The necessary precondition that permitted him to obtain that data was absent."
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.