Thursday, July 12, 2012

UPDATE: Judge Withdraws from Facebook Privacy Case Day Before Settlement Hearing

English: Seal of the en:United States District... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)United States District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Lucy H. Koh has recused herself without explanation from hearing Fraley v. Facebook (Case No. 5:11-cv-01726) the day before a scheduled settlement hearing, Reuters reports.

In a 38-page decision last year, Judge Koh denied the social media giant's motion to dismiss the putative class action suit based on Facebook's "Sponsored Story" Ads, finding the plaintiffs presented an actionable claim under California's Right of Publicity law [Calif. Civ. Code sec. 3344]. (See "TUOL" post 12/22/11.)

The parties reached a settlement under which Facebook purportedly would pay $20 million and users would have more of a say in how their personal information was used, according to the Reuters article.  The terms of any proposed resolution of the case, however, require the presiding judge's approval.

Scheduled dates to hear motions in the case were vacated by Judge Koh and she has asked that another judge take over the matter.
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  1. There appears to be a judicial story here. Is it unusual that no explanation is offered for recusal?

  2. The timing of Judge Koh's one-paragraph recusal does invite chin-stroking. She is being kept busy by the Samsung-Apple patent case that is before her. She(and her spouse)reportedly have links, some more direct than others, to organizations that would benefit financially from the settlement. She hasn't spoken to the media and I, like many lawyers, am prone to migraines whenever I try to get inside a judge's head. Recusal, in and of itself, is not a bad thing (and something Justice Thomas ought to have considered regarding the Affordable Health Care Act case given his wife's active opposition).