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Posted on: September 15, 2017

County Attorney Seeks Supreme Court Decision on Wiretapping After 9th Circuit Court Denies Motion

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery released the following statement in response to the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denial of the Office’s Motion for Reconsideration in a civil lawsuit filed by Manuela Villa involving wiretapping practices.

“We will seek review by the United States Supreme Court. The 9th Circuit had an opportunity to accurately deal with the facts and the law in this case and failed to do so,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

The Motion for Reconsideration sought rehearing on the Ninth Circuit’s decision that the County Attorney’s policies and practices in authorizing wiretap applications in compliance with state wiretap law, A.R.S. § 13-3010(A), are preempted by federal wiretap law, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2516(2) and 2518.

The County Attorney’s motion urged reconsideration due to the importance of this issue to law enforcement in Maricopa County and the State of Arizona, particularly in view of the Ninth Circuit’s erroneous interpretation of Arizona law, its creation of a split in the federal courts, and its deviation from its own precedent requiring a full record to be developed on a county attorney’s wiretap application at the trial court level.

The underlying case involved surveillance ranging from 2011 to 2012 that involved phone lines believed to be involved in drug crimes. Villa, who was not a target of authorized wiretap, had several conversations recorded during the surveillance period and she alleged that her privacy was breached in violation of federal law.

The Ninth Circuit panel found that the County Attorney acted in good faith in authorizing the wiretap application, and Villa has no right to recover damages under federal law. However, it held that Villa’s rights were violated because the 45-year-old Arizona law and the system the County Attorney used to approve the wiretap application violated the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.

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