October 9, 2018
Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CF1-7047-15) (Hon. Juliet J. McKenna, Trial Judge)
S. Lipshutz, with whom Michael Holecek, of the bar of the
State of California, pro hac vice, by special leave of court,
Thomas Cochrane, of the bar of the State of California, pro
hac vice, by special leave of court, John K. Roche, and
Hayley L. Berlin were on the brief, for appellant.
Mikel-Meredith Weidman, Public Defender Service, with whom
Samia Fam, Jaclyn Frankfurt, and Alice Wang, Public Defender
Service, were on the brief, for appellee.
R. Bates, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Jessie
K. Liu, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman,
Assistant United States Attorney, were on the brief, for
Glickman and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Farrell, Senior
McLeese, Associate Judge:
Facebook, Inc. filed an emergency appeal from an order
holding Facebook in civil contempt for refusing to comply
with subpoenas served by appellee Daron Wint. We previously
issued a brief order reversing the trial court's order,
and we now publish this opinion to more fully explain our
Wint was charged with murder in D.C. Superior Court. Before
trial, he filed an ex parte motion asking the trial court to
authorize defense counsel to serve subpoenas duces tecum on
Facebook and a Facebook subsidiary for records, including the
contents of communications, relating to certain accounts.
Facebook objected, arguing that the Stored Communications Act
(SCA), 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 2701-12 (West 2018),
prohibits Facebook from disclosing such information in
response to a criminal defendant's subpoena. The trial
court approved the subpoena request and held Facebook in
civil contempt for failing to comply.
trial court, Mr. Wint argued that if the SCA were interpreted
to preclude Facebook from complying with the subpoenas at
issue, then the SCA would be unconstitutional. Mr. Wint has
not renewed that argument in this court, however, and that
argument therefore is not before us. Rather, Mr. Wint has
argued in this court only that the SCA is properly
interpreted to permit Facebook to comply. We decide that
issue of statutory interpretation de novo. Richardson v.
United States, 927 A.2d 1137, 1138 (D.C. 2007). We first
look to see whether the statutory language at issue is
"plain and admits of no more than one meaning."
Peoples Drug Stores, Inc. v. District of Columbia,
470 A.2d 751, 753 (D.C. 1983) (en banc) (internal quotation
marks omitted). We will give effect to the plain meaning of a
statute "when the language is unambiguous and does not
produce an absurd result." McNeely v. United
States, 874 A.2d 371, 387 (D.C. 2005) (internal
quotation marks omitted). "[W]e may also look to the
legislative history to ensure that our interpretation is
consistent with legislative intent." Thomas v.
Buckley, 176 A.3d 1277, 1281 (D.C. 2017) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
broadly prohibits providers from disclosing the contents of
covered communications, stating that providers "shall
not knowingly divulge to any person or entity the
contents" of covered communications, except as provided.
18 U.S.C.A. § 2702(a)(1). The SCA contains nine
enumerated exceptions to this prohibition. 18 U.S.C.A. §
2702(b)(1)-(9). Mr. Wint does not rely on any of those
exceptions, and none of them applies in the present ...