Aug 272009
 August 27, 2009  Posted by  Court, Featured News, Govt, Surveillance, Workplace

Federal officials improperly seized a list of 104 Major League Baseball players who tested positive for steroids in 2003, the 9th Circuit ruled. Agents had a search warrant for drug-test results for 10 players, but found a list of 104 players who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. Officials used the longer list to get more search warrants, copied the entire computer directory and recorded all the players’ names.

The government should have taken only the results of the 10 players listed on the search warrant, the 9th Circuit ruled.

The case springs from the 2004 raid on a Long Beach, Calif., testing facility, during the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which was suspected of providing steroids to players.

Read more on Courthouse News.

This case is about much more than baseball. As the court points out, it has implications for the seizure of electronic records and the issues that arise when the government seizes more than what a warrant specifies.

This case is about a federal investigation into steroid use by professional baseball players. More generally, however, it’s about the procedures and safeguards that federal courts must observe in issuing and administering search warrants and subpoenas for electronically stored information.


Throughout, we take the opportunity to guide our district and magistrate judges in the proper administration of search warrants and grand jury subpoenas for electronically stored information, so as to strike a proper balance between the government’s legitimate interest in law enforcement and the people’s right to privacy and property in their papers and effects, as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

You can read the court opinion and dissenting opinion here (pdf)

Update: The Sacramento Bee also has coverage of this decision, as does Threat Level. I expect that there will be a lot of coverage on this decision.

Update 2: See Simple Justice and The Volokh Conspiracy for some good commentary and analysis of the decision.

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