WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Supreme Court judge in a case related to Google's privacy (991), disagreed on Wednesday with some form of agreement in class action lawsuits, in which money is given to charities and other third parties, rather than to persons affected by the alleged misconduct.
FILE PHOTO: A Google mark can be seen during the WAIC (World Artificial Intelligence Conference) on September 17, 2018 in Shanghai, China. REUTERS / Aly Song / File Photo
Google's $ 8.5 million settlement was challenged by an official in a Washington-based conservative think tank, and some of the court's conservative judges during an hour of reasoning shared his concern over possible abuses at these awards, including excessive fees for those Plaintiff attorneys.
Some of the liberal judges emphasized that such settlements could make good use of money in cases where dividing the money into a large number of plaintiffs would result in negligible per-person payments. Conservatives hold a majority of 5 to 4 at the Supreme Court.
The case began when a California-based resident named Paloma Gaos filed a class-action lawsuit in a federal court in San Jose in 2010 claiming that Google's search logs violated the privacy laws by exposing users' search terms to other sites. Google is part of Alphabet Inc.
A lower court upheld the settlement paid by the company in 2013 for settlement.
Critics say the settlements, known as "cy pres", are unfair and encourage lighthearted lawsuits, conflicts of interest and collusion between the two sides to minimize harm to the defendants and fees for lawyers to maximize the plaintiff. Proponents have said that these settlements can help the victims with important concerns and support under-funded jobs, such as legal aid.
Google agreed by comparison to indicate on its website how the search terms of the users are shared. The three main plaintiffs each received $ 5,000 to represent the class. Her lawyers received about $ 2.1 million.
Under the comparison, the remainder of the money would go to organizations or projects that promote privacy on the Internet, including Stanford University and AARP, a lobby group for older Americans, but not for the millions of Google users who use them Plaintiffs represented were the class action.
Cy Pres awards, which are still rare, are giving away money that can not be distributed to participants in a class action lawsuit to unrelated entities as long as it is in the interests of the plaintiffs.
"A SENSIBLE SYSTEM"
Conservative justice Samuel Alito expressed concern that the money would go to groups that some claimants dislike but would not mind saying, and asked how this can be a "reasonable system".
Chief Justice John Roberts, another conservative, noted that AARP was engaged in politics, an issue led by opponents of the Google deal, led by Ted Frank, the process director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Google has called Frank a "professional objection".
Roberts also said it was "fishy" that the settlement money could be passed on to institutions for which Google was already a donor. Some beneficiary institutions were also the alma mater of the lawyers involved in the case, said conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told Frank that he argued on Wednesday that the claimants had at least one "indirect benefit" from the deal.
"It seems the system will work," Justice Justice Sonia Sotomayor added, another liberal.
During the arguments, several judges, both liberal and conservative, asked whether the plaintiffs had been harmed by their internet searches, which was sufficient to justify a lawsuit in federal courts, and signaled that they could dismiss the case rather than the fate of Cy -Pres settlements to decide.
San Francisco's 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed Google's deal last year, saying that each of the 129 million US Google users who could theoretically claim to have had a portion of "a stake of 4 Cents in recovery ".
Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing Will Dunham