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Lead in BIPA class action against Clearview is firm, not breakaway attorney, judge rules

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Lead in BIPA class action against Clearview is firm, not breakaway attorney, judge rules

Plaintiffs’ legal representation is in “disarray” states the judge overseeing a proposed class action lawsuit against Clearview AI in the U.S. state of Illinois, and warns that the court may deem fit to change the appointment of lawyers, reports Reuters in the latest step in the saga.

The class action filed by a group of Illinois residents would accuse Clearview of violating the Illinois BIPA law (Biometric Information Privacy Act) which prohibits the collection and use of biometric data without consent. Clearview is alleged to have scraped billions of images from the web, such as social media profiles, without consent, to build datasets. Clearview contests the claims. In September it was granted a patent for its method of collecting training data – from public sources.

In an order, hosted/uploaded by Reuters, the judge has summarized the ins and outs of an individual lawyer, Scott Drury, in September leaving law firm Loevy & Loevy where he was interim lead counsel of the multidistrict litigation Mutnick v. Clearview, who left to set up a solo practice and attempted to claim the clients as his own.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman draws a line under the situation by affirming that the Court appointed Loevy & Loevy as whole, as the firm claims, and that Drury came as part of that. Had Drury applied solo at the outset, the Court would not have appointed him. Loevy will continue to serve the class as interim lead counsel, to be revisited at the class certification stage.

“The Court now clarifies that it appointed Scott Drury to the extent that he served as counsel of Loevy, not as an individual,” the judge wrote in the decision.

The firm is being allowed to rescind filings that said they were withdrawing from the case, filed by clients that left Loevy to be represented by Drury.

“All of plaintiffs’ counsel are forewarned, however, that the Court retains the ability to amend its appointment at any time if it is in the best interest of the class,” Judge Johnson Coleman warned and issued a deadline of 15 December for the counsel to sort themselves out, decide who is doing what and make sure they are ready for any further disputes such as fees.

Loevy & Loevy had previously claimed that Drury was attempting to “maximize his personal economic stake” ahead of a potential settlement with Clearview, Reuters previously reported, which Drury disputed.

There has been a series of legal activity based on BIPA. Loevy recently won US$228 million against BNSF Railway Co, whereas Facebook upturned a class action after the accuser was unable to show he was harmed in any way by the firm’s biometric practices. Microsoft and Amazon also saw BIPA cases against them dismissed.

Meanwhile, another biometric data privacy complaint against Clearview is going ahead, in California, after the court denied motions to dismiss the lawsuit. The judge there said that First Amendment rights do not include taking a photo of a person to use for business purposes.

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