U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh’s busy docket has gotten a little lighter lately, and maybe less controversial.
She transferred two privacy-related proposed class actions against Facebook Inc. to her colleague in San Francisco, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg.
The suit she transferred on Thursday claims that Facebook uses the names and photos of children to advertise products and services, without their consent, violating state law.
Seeborg will be the fourth judge to handle the case, which was first filed in August in the Southern District of Illinois and transferred to the Northern District of California in March.
In her order, Koh said she got rid of C.M.D. v. Facebook, 12-01216 because it’s related to another privacy suit over Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories” advertising feature, which Seeborg also inherited from Koh this month.
The reassignments come after Koh recused from Fraley v. Facebook, 11-01726 a day before a scheduled hearing on Facebook’s settlement agreement with plaintiffs. Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook would pay $10 million to 15 different charities that focus on protecting consumer privacy.
Koh didn't give a reason for stepping off the suits, but she’s connected to several organizations that are set to get money as part of agreement, which could have prompted her recusal.
She sits on Santa Clara University School of Law's High Tech Advisory Board and the university's High Tech Law Institute is set to get $600,000.
Her husband, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, is co-director of Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, and Stanford University's Information Law Institute is set to receive $600,000.
Several organizations, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have sent letters to the court saying they oppose the settlement because it doesn’t do enough to help the class. The Center for Public Interest Law and the Children’s Advocacy Institute filed an amicus curiae memorandum on July 12 saying it didn’t go far enough to protect children.
Koh’s recusal could be good news for Facebook, though. Seeborg approved a similar settlement agreement in 2010 over Facebook’s equally controversial Beacon ad program, which broadcast personal details, such as what movies people had seen. That settlement is on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Plaintiffs attorneys at Korein Tillery in St. Louis, Facebook attorney Michael Rhodes from Cooley and a Facebook spokesperson all declined to comment.