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Over-seizing is an inherent part of the electronic search process and proceed on the assumption that, when it comes to the seizure of electronic records, this will be far more common than in the days of paper records. This calls for greater vigilance on the part of judicial officers in striking the right balance between the government's interest in law enforcement and the right of individuals to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The process of segregating electronic data that is seizable from that which is not must not become a vehicle for the government to gain access to data which it has no probable cause to collect.
In 2002, the federal government commenced an investigation into the Bay Area Lab Cooperative (Balco), which it suspected of providing steroids to professional baseball players. That year, the Major League Baseball Players Association (the Players) also entered into a collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball providing for suspicionless drug testing of all players. The players were assured that the results would remain anonymous and confidential. Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc. (CDT), an independent business, administered the program and collected the specimens from the players; the actual tests were performed by Quest Diagnostics, Inc., a laboratory. CDT maintained the list of players and their respective test results; Quest kept the actual specimens on which the tests were conducted. During the Balco investigation, federal authorities learned of ten players who had tested positive in the CDT program. The government secured a grand jury subpoena in the Northern District of California seeking all "drug testing records and specimens" pertaining to Major League Baseball in CDT's possession. CDT and the players moved to quash the subpoena. Meanwhile, the government obtained a warrant authorizing the search of CDT’s facilities; the warrant was limited to the records of the ten players as to whom the government had probable cause. When the warrant was executed, however, the government seized and promptly reviewed the drug testing records for hundreds of players in Major League Baseball. The government also obtained a warrant from the District of Nevada for the urine samples kept at Quest’s facilities. CDT and the Players moved for the return of the property seized under the warrants before different state district courts, and to quash the subpoenas recently issued. The district courts granted the respective motions filed by CDT and the Players. The government appealed.
In its handling of the case, did the government fail to follow the procedures necessary to protect the rights of the parties, thereby necessitating the quash of the subpoena and the return of the seized properties?
The court affirmed the judgments entered by the district courts, finding that the government acted in callous disregard for the rights of third parties. Also, the government followed neither Tamura's procedures nor those outlined in the warrant. Items not covered by the warrant were not segregated by computer personnel. The plain view doctrine did not fit the circumstances. Because ample evidence supported a finding that the government engaged in intentional wrongdoing, it was not necessary to engage in the balancing that was normally required in returning property to third parties under Fed. R. Crim. P. 41.