Justices lengthen smartphone arguments, urge counsel to discuss mootness

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A woman found in contempt for refusing to unlock her smartphone in a criminal investigation has informed the Indiana Supreme Court that her criminal cases have been resolved. Now, the high court wants to hear arguments over whether her ongoing appeal is moot.

Justices are set to hear oral arguments in Katelin Eunjoo Seo v. State of Indiana, 18S-CR-00595, at 10 a.m. April 18. In July 2017, Katelin Seo was charged with invasion of privacy, stalking, intimidation and other charges deriving from the alleged harassment of a man.

When police ordered Seo to unlock her smartphone as part of their investigation, she refused, arguing that doing so would violate her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.   A divided Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, overturning a Hamilton County contempt order against her.

The high court then granted transfer and invited amicus curiae briefing. Civil rights attorneys have said a Supreme Court ruling in Seo could have significant implications on how technology is analyzed under the Fifth Amendment.

According to an order handed down by the justices Thursday, Seo responded to amici curiae by announcing she had resolved the criminal cases resulting in the contempt order and had filed a motion in the Hamilton Superior Court requesting an order requiring the return of her phone. Thus, the court directed the parties to be prepared to discuss whether her appeal is moot during oral arguments.

The court also lengthened the April arguments from 40 minutes to 50 minutes, equally divided between the parties. Justices will hear the Seo case on the road, holding arguments at the Honeywell Center’s Ford Theater in Wabash.

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