Stored Communications Act protects Yahoo email account from subpoena

Chasten v. Franklin, 2010 WL 4065606 (N.D.Cal. October 14, 2010)

Plaintiff sued some corrections officers at the prison where her inmate son was killed. She learned in a deposition that one of the defendants had a Yahoo email account. So she sent a subpoena to Yahoo seeking all the email messages sent from that account during a period of more than two years.

Defendant moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that disclosure of the email messages would violate his rights under the Stored Communications Act (SCA). The court granted the motion to quash.

Subject to certain specifically-enumerated exceptions, the SCA (at 18 U.S.C. 2702(a) and (b)) essentially prohibits providers of electronic communication or remote computing services to the public from knowingly divulging the contents of their customers’ electronic communications or the records relating to their customers. The court found that no such exception applied in this case. Citing to Theofel v. Farey-Jones, it held that compliance with the subpoena would be an invasion of the specific interests that the SCA seeks to protect.

2 thoughts on “Stored Communications Act protects Yahoo email account from subpoena

  1. Bill Wilson

    Interesting. I hadn't thought about it before, but it seems that the SCA creates a new form of privileged communications. Time to go look at those exceptions again…

  2. Michael

    So, what's to stop Plaintiff seeking copies of all emails directly from Defendant? Defendant would be easily compelled to go to Yahoo! and get those copies, and Yahoo! would have cooperate if the account owner made the demands for those copies.

    This is much ado about nada, although it was correctly decided under the SCA.

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