January 13, 2014 6:41pm PT by Eriq Gardner
New York Judge in Aereo Lawsuit Won't Crown Winner (Not Yet, Anyhow)
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan decided it was not wise to get ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court by issuing a summary judgment in the Aereo case.
She is, of course, the same judge who first denied TV broadcasters a preliminary injunction against Aereo, the digital upstart that uses an array of small antennas to stream over-the-air television signals to subscribers. After a stop at the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, a review of her ruling has made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The trip to the high court happened unusually quickly by judiciary standards. So fast, in fact, that it barely outpaced production on a season's worth of Mad Men episodes. And so expeditious that Judge Nathan hadn't gotten a chance to address summary judgment motions filed last summer in the case.
As the parties fight at the appellate level, after all, they continue to wage war with each other at the trial level too. And last May, Aereo looked to score the big win by telling Judge Nathan that the plaintiffs' claims were "foreclosed" by various 2nd Circuit rulings as well as the Supreme Court’s ruling in Sony. The broadcasters too looked for a knockout punch with a trial only determining how many millions of dollars -- or billions -- that Aereo should pay in damages.
"Having reviewed the parties' pending summary judgment motions, the Court concludes that it would not be an efficient use of resources to resolve these motions at this time," writes Judge Nathan.
The judge notes that discovery isn't yet over, although it is scheduled to finish on February 3.
She adds, "Moreover, the Supreme Court's grant of certiorari suggests that the law governing the issues raised by these motions may be explained or clarified in ways that materially affect the outcome of this matter."
Judge Nathan concludes a terse two-page ruling denying summary judgment with a less-than-subtle directive to the parties to brief her on whether the case -- including discovery -- should be suspended pending the decision by the Supreme Court. Hint, hint?