Judge Joining Facebook Steps Down from Google Suit

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By Daniel R. Stoller

May 23 — A California federal magistrate judge has stepped down May 23 in a mass joinder case, involving allegations that Google Inc. scanned student and faculty e-mails, due to partiality concerns over his upcoming position with Facebook Inc. ( Corley v. Google, Inc., N.D. Cal., 16-cv-00473, order granting request for recusal, 5/23/16 ).

According to the order, Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California will join Facebook June 3.

Judge Grewal recused himself “to avoid even the appearance of partiality,” even though he struggled to see the basis for the plaintiff's request. The only connection between the case and “impartiality that might reasonably be questioned” is the fact that both Google and Facebook are “global social network[s] with a certain public profile and a certain litigation experience,” he said.

The case arises out of allegations that Google, through their Google Apps for Education, scanned and processed the “content of every e-mail received by or sent from” a student of faculty account under the program “to develop sophisticated individual profiles for commercial purposes,” without the users consent (15 PVLR 617, 3/21/16).

In parting words to “whichever magistrate judge colleague finds this pile dropped on his desk,” Judge Grewal offered his most “heartfelt” gratitude: his thanks.

Gallo LLP represents the plaintiffs. Google is represented by Cooley LLP.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jimmy H. Koo at jkoo@bna.com

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