updated 07:26 pm EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
States, consumer groups may need to wait until first appeal is heard
The Second US Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear Apple's emergency request to overturn Judge Denise Cote's latest denial, and could temporarily halt the efforts of multiple state attorneys general and consumer group to launch a class-action lawsuit against Apple for damages related to its alleged price-fixing conspiracy with publishers. Apple has argued that the class-action should be put on hold while it appeals the original decision.
Judge Cote found the iPhone maker guilty of supposedly leading a conspiracy of publishers to break Amazon's monopoly last summer, but would also have presided over the class-action suit nearly simultaneously with the hearing of the appeal of her original verdict. In addition to not wanting to fight the case on two fronts, Apple wants the class-action lawsuit put on hold until the appeal is heard because it believes it has a strong case for the first verdict to be overturned, which would materially affect the class-action suit (as it is entirely based on the first verdict).
More than two dozen state attorneys general and a handful of consumer groups are suing Apple for damages supposedly caused by the price-fixing, which amounts to $280 million -- but the suit is seeking triple damages for willful antitrust actions, which could bring the total to $840 million. The trial is currently set to begin in July, and the lead attorneys in the case -- the state attorneys general for Texas and Connecticut -- have objected to any further delay.
The trial has already been postponed once, but that was due to Judge Cote's decision to grant class-action status, which requires class notification to anyone who may qualify as a plaintiff in the case (essentially, anyone who bought a best-selling e-book from Apple's iBookstore during 2011-2012). The order from the Second Circuit judged granted Apple's request to halt the notification process temporarily, at least until it can hear Apple's arguments on why the class-action suit should be delayed. The notices were scheduled to be sent out Monday.
The date for the hearing has not yet been announced. Apple had previously asked the Second Circuit appeal court to either replace Judge Cote's friend and appointee to be antitrust monitor, Michael Bromwich, or delay his duties until the appeal had been heard. The court denied both requests, but enacted a proposal from the Department of Justice that significantly reduced Bromwich's scope and allowable actions and provided for a renegotiation of his fees -- which addressed many of Apple's original complaints about Bromwich.