A federal judge in New York is expanding to the courts the hot debate over whether tech companies should be forced to find ways to unlock encrypted smartphones and other devices for law enforcement.

Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York released an order Friday that suggests he would not issue a government-sought order to compel the tech giant Apple to decrypt a customer’s device.

But before he can rule, he said, he wants Apple to explain whether the government’s request would be “unduly burdensome.”

Orenstein, one of a handful of magistrates across the country who are activists in the surveillance debate, is trying to stoke a similar discussion on encryption, colleagues and analysts say.

“He’s clearly a judge who is interested in opening topics to discussion in the judiciary, but he also thinks the larger public should know about the debate,” said Brian Owsley, a former magistrate judge in Texas who issued rulings that heightened privacy protections for the government’s use of cellphone-tracking devices.

Orenstein does not specify which federal agency or which device – a smartphone, laptop or tablet – and which operating system are at issue. But, he said, the agents obtained a search warrant for the device and “tried and failed to bypass” the device’s lock.

Apple last year began offering encryption on its newest smartphones that could be unlocked only by the device’s owner. That led FBI Director James Comey to say that such firms were deliberately allowing “people to place themselves beyond the law.”

On Thursday, Comey testified to Congress that discussions with companies over the past several months have been “productive.” But that same day, the government filed an application seeking to force Apple to unlock a device.

Orenstein noted that Congress and the executive branch “have not reached a consensus” that a new law is needed to force companies to maintain an ability to provide decrypted data to law enforcement. In fact, Comey told Congress that the administration had decided not to seek a legislative mandate for now.