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Amicus Curiae brief in Microsoft Case

The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, and the Minister of State for Data Protection, Pat Breen TD, confirm that Ireland has filed a brief with the Supreme Court of the United States concerning the Court’s upcoming consideration of a case relating to a dispute over access to emails held on Microsoft servers in Ireland.

The Government of Ireland yesterday filed an Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) brief with the Supreme Court of the United States. The brief is intended to assist the Court in its hearing of a US Government appeal of an earlier decision by the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals. That lower court decision found that the criminal warrant that is the subject of the case is not unilaterally enforceable in respect of email accounts held in other countries, such as Ireland.  

The Government of Ireland had previously filed a similar brief at an earlier stage of this judicial process, which was also in support of neither party to the case. The latest brief reaffirms the key points raised in that earlier Government submission to the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  

Speaking about the matter, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said: “It’s clear that the issues involved in this case are very complex. They involve important principles of criminal law, international law enforcement cooperation, data protection and privacy. The Government carefully considered the various issues at stake, including the potential implications for our jurisdiction, and decided that a further brief should be filed with the US Supreme Court. Our aim is to ensure that the Court is equipped with relevant information about the Irish legal regime that may assist it in determining the appeal.”

Minister Humphreys continued: “Ireland and the United States have long enjoyed excellent bilateral relations across a broad range of areas. We very much value close cooperation with the American Government on criminal matters, which helps ensure the safety of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. That is why we have a robust mutual legal assistance framework in place between our two Governments to aid such cooperation.”

The Minister of State for Data Protection, Pat Breen TD, also commented on the decision to file a brief with the US Supreme Court, saying: “Ireland is absolutely committed to international cooperation in law enforcement matters – there is no question about that. We also need to strike the right balance between ensuring effective sharing of data on criminal matters and protecting the integrity of our ‘best in class’ data protection regime. Individuals and businesses alike are entitled to expect that the rules that have been put in place to safeguard privacy will continue to be respected.”

Minister Breen added: “In many ways, this case concerns the need for legislation to keep pace with advances in global technology. This is a challenge faced by all jurisdictions and Ireland is actively involved in work at European Union level to update the policy and legislative framework in this area. Our Government is strongly committed to our data protection regime and I am focused on strengthening it further for the benefit of citizens and companies alike.

Through successive increases in the budgetary allocation to the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and the soon to be published legislation to give effect to the GDPR, the Government is ensuring that Ireland’s data protection regime is among the very best in Europe, enjoying the complete confidence of citizens and enterprises alike.  It is critical that they can continue to be confident that their personal data is being properly safeguarded.”