Cindy Cohn writes:
Today the Eleventh Circuit issued an unfortunate amended decision in Rehberg v. Hodges. The case arose from an egregious situation in which, among other misconduct, a prosecutor used a sham grand jury subpoena to obtain the private emails of whistleblower Charles Rehberg after he brought attention to systematic mismanagement of funds at a Georgia public hospital.
The Court held that Mr. Rehberg’s privacy interest in his emails held by his ISP was not “clearly established” and therefore his claim against the prosecutors could not proceed. The Court relied on a legal doctrine called qualified immunity, which holds that lawsuits against government officials for violations of constitutional rights cannot proceed unless those rights were “clearly established” at the time. The Court declined to rule on whether individuals have a privacy interest in the content of their emails.
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