Edward Snowden Phone Records Case is Argued Before Justices TODAY (at UC Irvine)

Just to be clear, Mr. Snowden will NOT be at UC Irvine this afternoon.
Just to be clear, Mr. Snowden will NOT be at UC Irvine this afternoon.

The constitutionality of the U.S. government's bulk collection of telephone records as exposed by Edward Snowden is before a court this afternoon--Moot Court at UC Irvine--and you can swing by and check it out for free.

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The annual Experian/Jones Day Moot Court Competition is eligible to all second-year UCI School of Law students as well as third-year law students who have not previously advanced beyond the preliminary round in a previous UCI Law Moot Court contest. Competitors are assigned a case and must write briefs and argue before an appellate court composed of "distinguished" members of the bench and bar.

The constitutionality of bulk collection of phone records was the case chosen for the 2014-15 competition, and beginning with the briefs that were due last Oct. 27 through practice and preliminary, advancing competitors announced and three elimination rounds, we come to today's final arguments by Aaron Benmark and Jackie Shepherd.

Here is the background on what the students are arguing before Hon. Carlos F. Lucero, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; Hon. Allyson K. Duncan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; and Hon. Susan Graber, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:

In June 2013, Edward Snowden publicly disclosed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders exposing the government's bulk telephony metadata collection program. In the wake of this disclosure, numerous lawsuits were filed across the nation challenging the legality of this program on statutory and constitutional grounds.

In two such challenges--Klayman v. Obama and American Civil Liberties Union v. Clapper--Petitioners brought separate claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the metadata program violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. The district courts reached opposite conclusions as to the Petitioners' claims. In Klayman, the district court held that Petitioners had demonstrated a likelihood of succeeding on the merits that the program violated the Fourth Amendment and thus it was unnecessary to reach the First Amendment question. Meanwhile, the district court in ACLU held that plaintiffs had not sufficiently shown that the program violated the Fourth Amendment and, moreover, that plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their First Amendment claim.

This moot court problem hypothesizes that while these cases were pending appeal, the ACLU plaintiffs petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a Writ of Certiorari Before the Judgment of a Federal Court of Appeals. This unusual procedure is granted "only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court." Sup. Ct. R. 11. The Supreme Court granted Petitioners' request and consolidated the above cases to resolve the following three issues:

I. Whether Petitioners have standing to pursue a First Amendment challenge to the metadata program;

II. Whether the metadata program violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution; and

III. Whether the metadata program violates the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

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The public is invited to come watch for free--well, free if you don't have a car you need to park on campus. It runs from 3:30 to 5 p.m., with a reception to follow, (no RSVP required, in Crystal Cove Auditorium. You'd park in Student Center Parking Structure (SCPS).

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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