Supreme Court to rule in Google privacy settlement case

Supreme Court to rule in Google privacy settlement case

The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in three cases Monday, including a dispute over a settlement in a Google privacy case and a Missouri death penalty case.

In Frank v. Gaos [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the question before the court is, “in what circumstances a cy pres award of class action proceeds that provides no direct relief to class members supports class certification and comports with the requirement that a settlement binding class members must be ‘fair, reasonable, and adequate.'” The term cy pres derives from the Norman-French phrase, cy pres comme possible, meaning “as near as possible.” Petitioners contend that the application of cy pres to the $8.5 million that Google agreed to pay in 2013 to settle allegations they violated users’ privacy rights, violates Rule 23 of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [text] governing class actions. The circuit courts are divided on the issue, with the Third, Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Circuits disallowing the practice and the Ninth Circuit allowing it.

In Bucklew v. Precythe [docket; cert. petition, PDF], a death penalty case in which the court ordered a stay [JURIST report] in March, concerns a number of procedural questions raised by the petitioner’s appeal of his execution by the state of Missouri. Petitioner contends that Missouri’s method of execution would cause him severe pain and violate the Eighth Amendment [text]. At issue are the lower courts’ assumptions when considering the challenge, the burden of proof and evidence required by the petitioner, and whether the petitioner must propose an adequate alternative mode of execution when challenging the state’s method of execution.

In Lamps Plus Inc. v. Varela [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the question before the court is whether “the Federal Arbitration Act [text] forecloses a state-law interpretation of an arbitration agreement that would authorize class arbitration based solely on general language commonly used in arbitration agreements.” The case concerns an employee class arbitration over a security breach that exposed over 1,300 employees’ W-2 data. Petitioner appeals from the Ninth Circuit, which found that the language of the employee arbitration contract did not directly address class arbitrations and thus prevented the petitioner from requiring their employees to arbitrate their claims individually.