The judge in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case is considering canceling the third trial in this long-running litigation brought by the major record labels against an individual peer-to-peer user.
The parties are preparing for a new trial starting Nov. 2, to focus only on damages, following the court's remittitur of the $1.92 million verdict handed down by a Minneapolis jury in 2009. But Judge Michael Davis indicated at a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday that he will give serious consideration to a defense request to modify his order so that it would instead rest on constitutional grounds. That would bring a degree of finality to the case, at least in the district court, and allow for an immediate appeal by one or both sides. I'm told that at the hearing, Judge Davis actually alluded several times to the movie Groundhog Day, referencing the scenario where he would repeatedly remit jury awards, only to have that remittitur refused by the plaintiffs, necessitating yet another trial, and ad infinitum.
Today the defense filed its brief seeking such reconsideration. It cites to the order issued by Judge Nancy Gertner in the Joel Tenenbaum case, which reduced the jury's award from $675,000 to $67,500 on constitutional grounds. In his original order, Judge Davis declined to reach the constitutional issues, citing United States v. Allen, 406 F.3d 940, 946 (8th Cir. 2005) (“When we are confronted with several possible grounds for deciding a case, any of which would lead to the same result, we choose the narrowest ground in order to avoid unnecessary adjudication of constitutional issues.).” In her order in the Tenenbaum case, Judge Gertner concluded that avoiding the constitutional issues was impossible essentially because of the Groundhog Day problem.
I'm told that the labels' plan to oppose Thomas-Rasset's motion for reconsideration; their response is due Wednesday, Oct. 20.
Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration