Discussions and headlines around tech policy tend to be dominated by what the President and the White House (aka the executive branch of the government) and what the Senate and House of Representatives (aka the legislative branch) are saying and doing. But it’s the judicial branch — the courts — that often gets the final say on key technology policy questions of the day… Like encryption, among many others.
And now, there’s a new Supreme Court justice in town (Neil Gorsuch, who was sworn in last month) — how does that change judicial decision making around tech policy? Finally, is the growing trend of tech companies writing and signing amicus briefs (or otherwise engaging with the courts) for high-profile policy issues a good or bad thing for their employees, shareholders, and others?
One thing is clear, though: The tech sector is getting more and more involved in policy issues, and is arguably becoming a “fourth branch” of government (or perhaps even a “fifth estate”) with its own checks and balances. Or so argue the guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast: Karen Dunn, partner at Boies Schiller Flexner (who has also been a consultant on the TV show House of Cards); and Erin Murphy, partner at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C. (recently recognized by National Law Journal as “a rising star”); in conversation with Ted Ullyot, who heads up Andreessen Horowitz’ Policy and Regulatory Affairs operation (and was formerly in both industry, as a general counsel at Facebook, and government, himself). The discussion took place as part our annual a16z Tech Policy Summit, in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.