April 20, 2020

Earlier this year, Jenner & Block Partner Clifford W. Berlow and Associate Grace C. Signorelli-Cassady wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers urging the Court to grant certiorari in Van Buren v. United States of America.  In that case, the Eleventh Circuit held that a person violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) by using a computer to access information for an improper purpose, even if that person is otherwise authorized to access that information.   According to the brief, the appellate court’s decision reinforced a conflict of authority regarding the meaning of “authorized access” under the CFAA, and its decision, along with those of other courts on its side of the conflict of authority, threatened to transform “seemingly innocuous activities,” such as “utilizing a work computer” to “check the weather report,” into federal crimes that, nonsensically, may be treated the same as “computer hacking by Russian nationals.” The brief urged the Court to address the split in authority and ensure that the CFAA is being interpreted in a manner that is consistent with Congress’ intent and the Rule of Lenity, which requires that imprecise criminal laws be construed “strictly” and in a manner that “favors the defendant.”  On April 20, the Court agreed to hear the case.