Permission and Purpose: Does a Person Violate the Federal Computer Fraud Statute by Accessing a Computer with Authorization but for an Improper Purpose?

48 A.B.A. Supreme Court Preview Journal 9 (2020)

7 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2020

See all articles by Brooks Holland

Brooks Holland

Gonzaga University School of Law

Date Written: November 30, 2020

Abstract

The article for the American Bar Association previews the U.S. Supreme Court case of Van Buren v. United States, No. 19-783, argued on November 30, 2020. In this case, Petitioner Nathan Van Buren, a Georgia police sergeant, improperly took money from someone to access a law enforcement computer database to investigate whether another individual was an undercover police officer. As a result, petitioner was convicted of federal computer fraud and bribery. Petitioner appealed his convictions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and argued that because he had authority as a police officer to access this database, he did not commit computer fraud, even though he accessed the information for an improper purpose. The Court of Appeals rejected petitioner’s argument. Petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court asking the Court to hold that a person cannot be convicted of federal computer fraud for accessing information on a protected computer if the person has authority to access the information, even if the person accesses it for an improper purpose. This article examines the parties' arguments in the Supreme Court briefs, as well as the briefs of the numerous amicus curiae.

Suggested Citation

Holland, Brooks, Permission and Purpose: Does a Person Violate the Federal Computer Fraud Statute by Accessing a Computer with Authorization but for an Improper Purpose? (November 30, 2020). 48 A.B.A. Supreme Court Preview Journal 9 (2020), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3740933

Brooks Holland (Contact Author)

Gonzaga University School of Law ( email )

721 N. Cincinnati Street
Spokane, WA 99220-3528

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