The retirement of Chief Judge James Ware means his cases get scattered among his colleagues on San Francisco-based federal court. The lucky winner of one significant case, the 20 combined class actions against Google Inc.’s Street View electric communications, goes to Judge Charles Breyer.
The class action filed in 2010 charges that Google’s Street View vehicles don’t just collect images used for Google Earth and Google Maps, but also secretly use a wireless sniffer system that intercepts electronic communications and other data – like passwords – transmitted on wireless networks.
The sniffer, called a “packet analyzer,” can store the plaintiffs’ data on Google servers, which may include emails, usernames and passwords, according to the lawsuit.
The suit claims Google failed to disclose that its vehicles roaming the streets of America also had the ability to capture Wi-Fi data. That, they say, violates the federal Wiretap Act and state wiretap laws.
Last year, Ware issued a significant ruling in the case, holding that the ECPA intended to treat Wi-Fi as akin to “radio communications” because the old law doesn’t mention Wi-Fi and Ware had to interpret what the heck Congress wanted.
That kept the case alive. Now Breyer takes over.
Breyer was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1997. He served as an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate investigation of President Richard Nixon in 1973-1974. And his brother is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
Plaintiffs, lead by Lieff Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, have been merged into one Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) case from the 20 suits originally filed around the country. The MDL process streamlines litigation when multiple suit are filed on the same issue but scattered in federal courts around the country.
Case: In re Google Inc. Street View Electric Communication Litigation, No. 10-md-2184CRB