Working with lead counsel Joshua L. Dratel, Professor Ahmed Ghappour and UC Hastings students are appealing the conviction and sentence of Ross Ulbricht.
Ulbricht was given two life sentences in federal court last May for his involvement in founding and running the anonymous Silk Road black market website that sold drugs and other illicit goods. Ulbricht was arrested by federal agents at a San Francisco public library in the fall of 2013. He was charged for multiple crimes, but none of them were violent offenses. His case made headlines because the website is linked to over $1 billion of drug and counterfeit ID sales all over the globe.
Media coverage of the trial unveiled many controversies surrounding how evidence was secured, raising questions as to the government’s ability to access digital information for law enforcement purposes.
“This might be the most important case out there dealing with rapid developments in criminal procedure and the dark web,” said Professor Ghappour, referring to the vast portion of the Internet that lies largely outside of law enforcement’s reach. “Here we have a case where key components of the investigation occurred on the dark web, an environment that defies our basic conceptions of geographic space and identity.”
Six students enrolled in the clinic will be researching issues related to government search and seizure powers in an era under the fourth amendment in order to prepare an appeal by the end of the semester.
The clinic was appealing to students because of its high profile cases dealing with cutting edge constitutional issues. “The rapid development of information technology and our pervasive adoption of it has led to serious questions surrounding our individual privacy rights,” said 2L Genna Promnick, who signed up for the clinic because of her longstanding interest in data security and privacy.
2L Tiffany Ku said she is excited to be working a case involving the evolution of digital society. She is aiming for a career in litigation, and the clinic offers her an unprecedented opportunity to learn directly from the attorneys working on this case. “I think that the most important litigation right now deals with the clash between technology, government, and civil rights,” Ku said. “This case could redefine what we consider normal. I want to be a part of the conversation which determines where our digital society will go, and figuring out what digital rights will look like is a crucial element.”
For more information about the case, visit http://freeross.org.
The Liberty, Security & Technology Clinic is an advanced constitutional law clinic that offers litigation assistance and expertise in complex federal criminal prosecutions.
Clinic students develop a problem-solving approach to lawyering that is international, interdisciplinary, and collaborative. They will write briefs and moot arguments that promote respect for Constitutional due process, privacy, and other rights, often involving issues of first impression.
Alex A.G. Shapiro
Director of Communications & Public Affairs
UC Hastings College of the Law
Office: (415) 581-8842
Cell: (415) 813-9214