Smith V. Obama

Sep 27, 2015 | Privacy and Data Security Law

In Smith v. Obama, Anna Smith, a neonatal intensive care nurse, filed suit against President Obama and others asserting that the dragnet collection of call records violated the Fourth Amendment.

The U.S. District Court in Idaho dismissed the case. Though District Judge Lynn Winmill held that the 1979 Supreme Court case Smith v. Maryland controlled, he expressed grave concerns about the privacy implications of the NSA’s surveillance and cited to the one case that had found it unconstitutional:

Judge Leon’s decision [in Klayman v. Obama] should serve as a template for a Supreme Court opinion. And it might yet. Justice Sotomayor is inclined to reconsider Smith, finding it “ill-suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks.” See U.S. v. Jones, 132 U.S. 945, 957 (2012) (Sotomayor, J., concurring). The Fourth Amendment, in her view, should not “treat secrecy as a prerequisite for privacy.” Id.

But Smith was not overruled, and it continues – along with the Circuit decisions discussed above – to bind this Court. This authority constrains the Court from joining Klayman. Accordingly, the Court will grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss and deny Smith’s motion for injunctive relief.

The decision is on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court, and the decision is pending. The oral argument was held on December 8, 2014 by Peter J. Smith IV. You can watch the argument here.

On appeal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation assisted as co-counsel to Smith + Malek.