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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Turns Down File-Sharing Appeal Challenging Remittitur Procedure

Posted May 21, 2012 11:26 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear the case of Joel Tenenbaum, a doctoral graduate who was originally ordered to pay $675,000 for downloading copyrighted music.

The trial judge had found the verdict was constitutionally excessive and reduced the amount to $67,500. On appeal the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the judge should have avoided the constitutional question through remittitur. The court reinstated the $675,000 award, but ordered the trial judge to consider remittitur.

A Supreme Court petition filed by Harvard University law professor Charles Nesson had objected to the remittitur procedure because it allows the plaintiffs to reject the reduced award and opt for a retrial. “The 1st Circuit’s misuse of remittitur threatens to push the defendant down an endless litigation rathole,” Nesson argues. The prospect of a “retrial merry-go-round” forces defendants to settle, avoiding the constitutional issues, he wrote.

SCOTUSblog and Wired’s Threat Level blog reported on the cert denial.

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