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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Jammie Thomas-Rasset Case

A few months back, I wondered whether the latest appeal from Jammie Thomas-Rasset to reduce the lawsuit damages imposed on her would be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, we got the answer.

The Supreme Court “denied certiorari”, which is a latinate way of saying that it declined to hear Thomas-Rasset’s case, meaning that the $222,000 jury verdict against her will likely stand.

I say it will “likely” stand because even though the Supreme Court has denied to hear her appeal, there is apparently still some hope (albeit pretty dim) that her fortunes might change as a function of another case, that of Joel Tenenbaum, whose appeal is still pending before the First Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s conceivable, at least, that if the First Circuit reduces the damages against Tenenbaum (or remands the case for rehearing on damages), that could give Thomas-Rasset a new basis for appeal.

In any event, according to Thomas-Rasset, the fact that the Supreme Court allowed the damages to stand is an “empty victory for the recording industry,” because she’s broke.

“If they want to come after me, they’ll find I have no assets,” Thomas-Rasset said, according to the same ABC News/Associated Press article I linked to above.

Thomas-Rasset’s attorney, Kiwi Camara (who is also Tennenbaum’s attorney), said that principle, and not money, was at the heart of why Thomas-Rasset fought the claims in the first place.

“It’s not fair or legal that an industry can go and pluck a defendant out at random and punish them for file-sharing, an act committed by millions of Americans,” Camara said, adding that the judgement wasn’t really about what his client did. “It’s just a made-up number. The recording industry is making a public display by pursuing this case, trying to show people that they should be afraid.”

I don’t really have any quarrel with the second part of what Camara said — that this case was largely about making an example of someone in order to change consumer mindsets — but I think the courts pretty clearly disagree that what the RIAA did in the case is not “legal.” After all, if the RIAA’s lawsuit had been illegal in the eyes of the court, Camara would not be in the position to offer that quote in the first place.