Although it only started last November, a federal judge hearing Internet Movie Database’s constitutional challenge to a new California law appears to be ready to wrap the lawsuit up.
Judge Vince Chhabria told both IMDb and California state officials ahead of a meeting Thursday to be ready to discuss a summary judgment in the case, or at least be ready to share what else Chhabria would have to consider before making an early decision.
That could be a significant win for IMDb, which at this point is seeking only a temporary injunction to halt California Assembly Bill 1687 requiring the website to remove ages of people featured in profiles. IMDb has claimed the law violates First Amendment rights to publish factual information, while California contends such a law is necessary to battle rampant age discrimination in Hollywood.
A summary judgement would end the current case right in its tracks – at least at this level – and could declare the California law unconstitutional. It suggests Chhabria believes he has all the evidence he needs to make a decision, said John Woodman, an attorney with Sodoma Law in Charlotte, North Carolina, who is not involved with the case.
“Such a request is rather unique considering the case is merely five months into litigation. And while not the typical complex commercial case involving the exchanging of business records and the life, the parties have likely not engaged in any form of discovery.”
“The order provides an undertone of the court’s foreshadowing of ‘what else could either party assert that hasn’t already been asserted or proffered before the court.”
A summary judgement declaring the law unconstitutional would be a huge defeat for Hollywood’s largest actors union, SAG-AFTRA, who was a primary proponent, and also who has asked to be included as a defendant in the IMDb suit. The union – and the state – would, however, have the opportunity to appeal such a decision to higher levels of court.
No matter what happens there, there also is a chance IMDb’s challenge could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, especially if there is a chance to help better define the rights offered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
California officials originally asserted sovereign immunity as a defense to the lawsuit, claiming it had to consent to a lawsuit before IMDb could file it. However, at least in legal practice, there are no sovereign immunity protections when it comes to constitutional challenges. That meant in order for IMDb to continue its case, it would have to prove that there is indeed a reasonable chance its constitutional rights have been violated.
The California law, according to IMDb, targets only the one website, and doesn’t force other information portals like Wikipedia or search engines to remove age information. IMDb also claims the law overreaches, because it’s trying to claim jurisdiction throughout the rest of the world, outside of the state boundaries.
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