NEW YORK (Reuters) - The government has decided not to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a divided appeals court ruling in a criminal case that drew attention to a 28-year-old computer hacking law that critics argue is being used too broadly.
The decision means that a 9-to-2 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissing criminal charges against a defendant accused of illegally downloading confidential data from his employer will stand. The appeals court ruled in April that the defendant in that case could not face charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
The 9th Circuit ruling had been suspended to give the U.S. Department of Justice until August 8 to consider petitioning the Supreme Court to review the case. In a filing last Thursday, prosecutors said “the Solicitor General will not file a petition” to the high court to take up the matter. No reason was given.
The ruling stemmed from the prosecution of David Nosal, a former managing director at executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. Nosal was indicted in 2008 over allegations he persuaded colleagues to download confidential source lists and contact information from the firm to use at his new business.
Three of Nosal’s co-defendants pleaded guilty to CFAA violations. But Nosal fought the charges, arguing that he and his colleagues had been authorized to access Korn/Ferry’s database.
The majority of the appeals court supported Nosal’s argument and dismissed the CFAA charges against him. Civil liberties advocates have also supported those arguments, saying that the anti-hacking law can potentially criminalize activity that should be dealt with privately between employers and their employees.
Nosal’s lawyer, Steven Gruel, said on Wednesday that his client “looks forward to clearing his name of the few remaining charges in court.”
Nosal still faces separate charges of trade secrets theft in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The charges carry a maximum possible prison term of 15 years.
The office of U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, did not respond to requests for a comment.
The case is USA v David Nosal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 10-10038
Reporting By Grant McCool; Editing by Maureen Bavdek