National Lawyers Guild Files Amicus Brief in Ross William Ulbricht v. United States of America



Heidi Boghosian (917-239-4999),

Zak Wolfe (202-242-5130),

WASHINGTON – The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court)
brief on February 5, 2018 in Ross William Ulbricht v. United States of America, on petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

The petitioner was sentenced to life in prison after the FBI tracked his location without a warrant, based on his website activities and on uncharged, judicially-found “facts” that he ordered murders- for-hire that never transpired.

The brief asked the Court to clarify whether the warrantless seizure of an individual’s Internet traffic information, without probable cause, violates the Fourth Amendment. It also asks whether the Sixth Amendment permits judges to find the fact necessary to support an otherwise unreasonable sentence.

As the brief notes on the Fourth Amendment issue, “[T]he court below mechanically applied nearly forty-year precedent, believing that cases considering pen traps of the telephone number dialed was akin to government knowledge of what websites a person visits. Something as socially, politically, and personally important as website browsing history requires updated consideration of privacy rights by this Court before the government is given license to search it without probable cause.”

On the Sixth Amendment issue, the brief notes that: [T]hese “found” murders-for-hire and other harms are best understood as anxious imaginings of the darker intentions that “must” lurk behind the commonly misunderstood Silk Road technologies, namely anonymizing software, crypto-currency, and the so-called Dark Web.”

The brief was written by attorneys Heidi Boghosian (former NLG Director and current Director of the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute) and Prof. Zachary Wolfe (former NLG National Vice President and former chair of the Amicus Committee).

Joining the brief were the American Conservative Union Foundation Center for Criminal Justice Reform, Freedom Project Judge Nancy Gertner (Ret.), the Human Rights Defense Center, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, and the People’s Law Office.

A copy of the brief is available for download from our web site.


The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.

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