22 April 2010

GBS Update: Judge Chin Confirmed to Second Circuit

The Settlement (in essay form)
The Lawsuit (in essay form)

Judge Chin was just confirmed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals this morning, and would ordinarily be expected to make the move (in this instance, just to a different floor in the same building) on the next scheduled argument day for that court — that is, next week.

So, what does this mean for the Google Book Search litigation, you might ask? And well you should.

Ordinarily, it means that the matter will be sent to another judge who remains on the District Court, who will then decide all outstanding motions (etc.) — including, in this instance, class certification and whether the proposed settlement may go forward. (Obviously, Judge Chin would recuse himself from any appeals, which would be taken to the Second Circuit.) I've sort of sarcastically suggested that poor Judge Daniels will get this case as a related matter to In re Literary Works in Electronic Databases Litigation — the formal title of the matter underlying Muchnick, which remains a live case (that may, or may not, be reassigned or have already been reassigned — since it's on appeal at the moment, it's still alive, but somewhat dormant, in the District Court). That, of course, would mean dealing with many of the same lawyers as in the GBS matter... What bothers me is that everyone I've mentioned this to who actually practices in New York agrees that this is the most likely circumstance.

It is theoretically possible for Judge Chin to retain the matter and "sit by designation" for GBS only. I discount that in this matter; ordinarily, when a federal appellate judge sits by designation, it is at the invitation of both Chief Judges and occurs only after the newly appointed appellate judge has had a couple of years as an appellate judge to get used to that workload. That's not to say that the workload is greater or lesser in either set of courts — just that its nature is so vastly different that there's a huge learning curve and culture shock, even for judges who have served as District Court judges for sixteen years (like Judge Chin) and served by designation on appellate panels (ditto).

So, in summary: If Judge Chin isn't pretty well already done writing his opinion(s), everything that is currently live in GBS is almost certainly going to be decided by somebody else, probably (but not certainly) Judge Daniels. And since Judge Chin still has some outstanding criminal matters requiring opinion — which, as a matter of law, come first — I don't see it happening. Of course, I've been wrong before on some of the details of this monster; this time, I really, really don't think I'm wrong.