Google Books Settlement Nixed by Judge Chin - But Why Does He Rule Here? What Happened to the Jurisdiction of the NYSD Trial Court Bench?

The Google Books Settlement Agreement that required court approval didn't get it.  Today, Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (an Obama appointee coming out of the New York Southern District Court) released his decision in a written opinion that can be read online at the Southern District of New York's website.

Go here to read the Google Books Settlement Agreement Order of March 22, 2011, in its entirety.  

Apparently, Judge Chin ruled on the case since it appeared before him at the lower level trial court when he presided as a judge in the New York Southern District - though he's now in a new position on the appellate bench.  He doesn't work there anymore. 

Nevertheless, he's signed the Opinion, alone, as "sitting by designation," and ruled in a way that impacts the trial court's docket by keeping this huge case on its trial calendar.  The Order includes a setting for the next motion hearing, for example.   (I've heard of a district court judge sitting by designation on a higher appellate bench, but this is the reverse of that situation: it's an appellate judge jumping down to the lower tier to make a ruling.) 

Is it just me, or shouldn't the trial court have retained jurisdiction and the judge currently setting on the district court's bench be the one to issue this opinion - or at least signed the thing? I'm sure that the phrase "sitting by designation," is supposed to answer all my questions here. 

But sitting down here in Texas, I'm thinking how curious it is for a judge on the appellate bench to make this sort of impact - on the trial court he's no longer with, as well as all the parties to this settlement deal.  After all, this was a negotiated deal between all the parties. 

Plus, in November 2009, a Court Order gave a temporary thumbs-up to the settlement (see it here).  On that basis, Google has moved forward, relying upon that okey-dokey.  That Order was signed by Judge Chin. 

And in that November 2009 Order's last paragraph, signed by Judge Chin (see paragraph no. 30), it states:

The Court reserves jurisdiction over the subject matter and as to each party to the Amended Settlement Agreement ....

I would argue that when Judge Chin accepted the appointment by President Obama and left the trial court bench for a new job on the appellate court, one of the things he left behind was the Google case.  Whoever replaced him on that trial court bench got that open matter -- as reflected in the language of the November 2009 Order signed by Chin -- and that there's a big jurisdictional argument to be made here. 

In other words, where does Chin have jurisdiction to rule?  Sitting by designation?  Is there an Order or something that gives him continued authority here?  Where is it?  Why isn't his power to rule referenced in today's ruling? 


Anonymous said...

28 U.S.C. 291(b): "The chief judge of a circuit or the circuit justice may, in the public interest, designate and assign temporarily any circuit judge within the circuit, including a judge designated and assigned to temporary duty therein, to hold a district court in any district within the circuit."

The public interest in this case is avoiding having to hold another fairness hearing before a newly assigned judge.

Anonymous said...

Well, Anonymous 1, that's fine.

However, its one situation where the fed appeals court "designates and assigns" one of its own to preside over a district court and another where the trial judge moves up and then hangs onto the case.

Backseat Lawyer has a point.

The new judge's learning curve that is avoided by Justice Chin staying on the case is assumedly the public interest you've referenced, but there is something that appears a bit hinky here -
particularly when the Order goes so far as to provide suggestions on alternatives for the new settlement negotiations to consider.

Pushing the edge of the envelope ....