The DEA has claimed for years that under federal law it has the authority to access the state’s Prescription Drug Monitor Program database using only an “administrative subpoena.” These are unilaterally issued orders that do not require a showing of probable cause before a court, like what’s required to obtain a warrant.
In 2012 Oregon sued the DEA to prevent it from enforcing the subpoenas to snoop around its drug registry. Two years ago a U.S. District Court found in favor of the state, ruling that prescription data is covered by the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure.
But the DEA didn’t stop there. It appealed the ruling to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and has been fighting tooth and nail ever since to access Oregon’s files on its own terms.
The case pits the full weight of the Obama administration against the state of Oregon and five individual plaintiffs, two of whom (John Doe 2 and John Doe 4) are transgender and take prescription hormone drugs that are covered by Oregon’s prescription monitoring law.