All Writs Act

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The All Writs Act (Jonathan Mayer)

The All Writs Act is a United States federal statute, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1651, which authorizes the United States federal courts to "issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law."

The act in its original form was part of the Judiciary Act of 1789. The current form of the act was first passed in 1911[1] and the act has been amended several times since then.[2]

On October 31, 2014, the act was used by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York to compel an unnamed smartphone manufacturer to bypass the lock screen of a smartphone allegedly involved in a credit card fraud.[3]

Similarly, on November 3, 2014, the Oakland Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office named Apple, Inc. in papers invoking the Act, which were filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Court documents obtained by Ars Technica[4] reveal that federal law enforcement sought to get Apple to unlock an iPhone 5S as part of a criminal case.[5]