E.D. N.y. Orders Suppression Hearing on Issue of Search of Company Documents, Using Justice Gorsuch’s Property Analysis From Carpenter

This case easily could have been skipped, but I include it because it is indicative of how influential Justice Gorsuch’s dissenting opinion in Carpenter was, and that the defense bar must pay close attention to his property analysis when formulating Fourth Amendment arguments in the future.

This case centers around whether there should be a hearing on a motion to suppress based on the search of a storage unit where company records were being held. The Court decided a hearing should be held in this matter.

The Court, citing cases, noted that it is possible for the defendant to have separate Fourth Amendment interests in the storage unit and in the containers of documents therein. Matters are complicated because the defendant owns a bookkeeping company that maintained documents that the Government wants to see.

The Court rejected a Government argument that the defendant had no expectation of privacy because a company employee rented the unit in the employee’s name rather than in the name of the company. The Court here adopts Justice Gorsuch’s property analysis in Carpenter, finding this to be a bailment, stating that “(p)ersons may have expectations of privacy in areas that they use but do not legally own.” The Court rejected the Government’s argument that, since the defendant (the person) is different and separate from the defendant (the corporation), the defendant surrendered her personal interests in her personal documents.

The case is United States v. Bronfman, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49508, 2019 WL 1332888 E.D. NY (March 25, 2019).

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