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Judge Denny Chin

Judge Chin (att. Wikipedia)

Authors, academics, practitioners and even foreign governments have spent much of the last 18 months discussing what the Authors’ Guild lawsuit against Google means for copyright law and for consumers.   Many predictions have been made about the implications of a settlement agreement which the parties submitted to Judge Denny Chin in early 2010, when he was sitting as a Federal District Judge in the Southern District of New York.

While some of the reactions have managed to be rational and/or well thought through, the more recent thoughts of interested parties have turned to something much more practical – when will we actually get Judge Chin’s decision?

Recent developments in relation to three dates indicate that we might see Judge Chin’s opinion handed down some time within the next four weeks.

January 20, 2011

The first date, less than a week away, is relevant because of what Judge Chin will not be doing.  He had been scheduled to address the Appellate Courts Committee of the New York County Lawyers’ Association but called on January 7 to say that he could not make it and would have to reschedule.  It is not a stretch to think that he is finding time to finish up outstanding cases before the Second Circuit’s 2011 calendar gets under way (he was listed to hear his first case on January 11).

February 3, 2011

By contrast, Judge Chin’s engagement on February 3, this time as speaker at the Charles Evans Hughes 48th Memorial Lecture remains, at the time of writing, in the diary.  Of course, this is a bigger commitment than speaking before the Committee, so the fact that he has not canceled it may not portend very much.  Nonetheless, it is unlikely that preparation for this event alone would require him to cancel the Appellate Courts Committee event.

February 18, 2011

The 18th day of February 2011 marks the first anniversary of the last hearing on this complex lawsuit.  Having moved up to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals last year, Judge Chin already has a busy year ahead of him and it will not help him to have the Authors’ Guild lawsuit hanging over him.  It is reasonable to expect that the voluminous material filed in this matter will be reviewed and considered together, so there appear to be three options for the Judge:

  1. do it now, before his duties as a Second Circuit Judge demand too much of his time;
  2. have only a peripheral role in the Second Circuit while undertaking the bulk of the work demanded by the GBS opinion; or
  3. wait until his timetable in the Second Circuit eases up and he has enough time to conduct his review, possibly sometime later  in 2011.

My expectation is that he will not want to let this case go an entire year without an answer: it makes things more difficult for the parties and for the Judge, but of course stranger things have happened.  If anyone else has any insights, feel free to note them below.