Apple Inc. is hoping a decision from a federal judge in Brooklyn will help convince a California Central District Court judge to drop an order that would force the iOS maker to assist the FBI by developing software to bypass security features in its iPhone, according to a court filing submitted Wednesday.
In the New York case, Magistrate Judge James Orenstein on Monday denied a request by the U.S. Department of Justice to compel Apple to bypass the passcode security on an iPhone tied to a convicted drug trafficker.
More specifically, he ruled that the U.S. government failed to establish it had the authority to get the order issued through the All Writs Act. The 1789 law also is the basis for the FBI’s demand for Apple to help it unlock an iPhone 5C tied to Syed Rizwan Farook, one of two terrorists killed after staging the Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 dead and 22 wounded.
"Judge Orenstein considered the government's application under the All Writs Act ("AWA") for an order compelling Apple to unlock the passcode on the iPhone running an older version of iOS, a request far less burdensome than the order sought here," Apple said in the filing. "Judge Orenstein denied the government's request."
Orenstein ruled that the government's use of the All Writs Act in the Brooklyn case was misplaced. “[T]he question to be answered in this matter, and in others like it across the country, is not whether the government should be able to force Apple to help it unlock a specific device; it is instead whether the All Writs Act resolves that issue and many others like it yet to come,” Orenstein wrote in the ruling. “ For the reasons set forth above, I conclude that it does not.”
The Brooklyn case’s outcome could potentially sway Judge Sheri Pym in California on whether to cancel the order. But while Pym can take the ruling under consideration, she’s under no obligation to follow through with a similar ruling. Apple and the FBI are expected in court for a hearing on March 22 to discuss the matter.