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The tech community is watching the Third Circuit as Andrew "weev" Auernheimer, the hacker people love to hate, appeals his conviction for, as he puts it, "doing arithmetic." And, in more somber news, the Third Circuit lost one of its finest judges on Wednesday, Judge Joseph F. Weis Jr.
Weev's Appeal and Oral Arguments
Weev is currently serving a 41-month sentence for identity theft and conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a protected computer, in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA"), when he accessed and leaked 114,000 email addresses of iPad users. On Wednesday, the Third Circuit heard arguments in his appeal.
The oral arguments make one thing clear, the prosecutors are intent on criminalizing activity they don't understand. In arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Moramarco stated, "He had to do all sorts of things -- I don't even understand what they are," reports Ars Technica. He later analogized weev's "actions to blowing up a nuclear power plant in New Jersey."
Auernheimer's attorneys on the other hand argued "There is no unauthorized access ... [because the information weev accessed] is effectively public," reports Motherboard. They elaborated that for the CFAA to apply here, weev would have had to gotten through a "password gate," which was not the case, according to Ars Technica.
A large portion of the arguments was spent discussing venue, with Auernheimer's attorneys arguing that New Jersey was not the proper venue. The following day, the Government followed up its oral arguments with a letter containing additional arguments on venue and harmless error. The CFAA is not without critics, and legislators have even has proposed reforms. In light of the controversy surrounding the CFAA, and the amount of time spent on the venue arguments, the Third Circuit may decide this appeal on a jurisdictional issue, and leave it for Congress to sort out the CFAA.
Remembering Judge Weis
On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, Judge Joseph F. Weis Jr. passed away. He was appointed to the federal bench, by Richard Nixon, in 1970, and in 1973 was nominated to the Third Circuit where he sat until he retired in 2013 at the age of 90, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Justice Alito sat on the Third Circuit bench with Judge Weis and stated, "He was the model of an appellate judge -- fair, scholarly, very patient. He was not quick to come to a decision. He gave it very thorough consideration. He was tremendously even-handed."