Trade group wants techie in Supreme Court

U.S. President Barack Obama should appoint a justice with a background in technology issues to fill an upcoming opening at the Supreme Court, a tech trade group said.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), in a letter to Obama sent Wednesday, suggested that the nation’s highest court may face a number of tech-related issues in the coming years, including cases involving privacy, free speech, net neutrality and antitrust. U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who represents part of Silicon Valley in California, would make a strong nominee, CCIA President and CEO Ed Black wrote.

Lofgren “understands where the law and technology intersect and has applied current law and sought to make new law when necessary to ensure technology is a force for good in society by expanding equal access to opportunities through open Internet access,” Black wrote. “She has also acted as a watchdog when the government or others infringed on the privacy of Internet users — or broke the law when collecting information on Americans.”

A spokesman for Lofgren had no comment on the CCIA’s recommendation.

Black urged Obama to promote diversity in his appointment of a justice to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced Friday that he plans to retire this year.

The Supreme Court needs justices who have served in other branches of government and who practiced law for people “living in a variety of socio-economic conditions,” Black wrote.

Lofgren, first elected to Congress in 1995, is a former immigration lawyer. She’s also been active in many tech debates in Congress, and she’s supported net neutrality rules, a tax moratorium on Internet taxes, patent reform and past increases in H-1B immigrant visas.

That understanding of tech issues will be important for the next justice, Black wrote.

“As we are living in an information economy where everything is becoming digital, we would advocate picking someone with a deep understanding of technology issues,” he said. “Many of the laws which lower courts are applying were made years before cell phones, lap tops, remote data storage and processing, and also before the interconnected business models under which many innovative companies now operate. A technologically savvy Supreme Court can resolve divisions in among federal courts that cause uncertainty and slow innovation.”

Lofgren graduated from Stanford University in 1970, and from Santa Clara Law School in 1975. She served on the Board of Supervisors of Santa Clara County for 14 years, and she worked for former Representative Don Edwards.

CCIA’s members include Google, eBay, Yahoo, Oracle, T-Mobile and Advanced Micro Devices.

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