U.S. judge warns law firms in Clearview AI lawsuit over 'disarray'

Lawyers walk with their briefcases towards the federal court house in San Diego, California June 22, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake
  • Loevy & Loevy affirmed as co-lead counsel in dispute with lawyer who left firm
  • Judge says appointment order subject to change if in "best interest of the class"

(Reuters) - Law firm Loevy & Loevy will remain as co-lead counsel in a proposed class action against facial recognition startup Clearview AI Inc, a Chicago federal judge said this week, after a split between the firm and one of its former lawyers created "disarray" over their roles in the case.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman affirmed in her Nov. 23 order that she had appointed the Loevy firm "as a whole" last year, rather than individually appointing attorney Scott Drury, a former Illinois state representative who left the firm in September to run a solo practice.

Attorneys at Loevy said last month that Drury was claiming an individual leadership role to sideline the firm just as a potentially lucrative settlement may be in the works.

The proposed class action accuses Clearview of violating an Illinois law regulating the collection and dissemination of biometric data such as fingerprints or retinal scans. Clearview allegedly scraped billions of facial images from the web and sold information without consent. The company is contesting the claims.

Coleman ruled this week that attorneys at the Loevy firm can rescind court filings that said they were withdrawing from the case. They filed those papers at the request of clients who had followed Drury to his new firm.

She warned all of the plaintiffs' lawyers that "the court retains the ability to amend its appointment at any time if it is in the best interest of the class."

Drury on Friday declined to comment. He has previously denied any improper conduct in the case. In a court filing, Drury alleged the Loevy firm made "false claims regarding [his] character and intent" after his departure, and that he was the impetus for the firm's work on the case.

Jon Loevy said in a statement Wednesday that his firm is "looking forward to working collaboratively with the other firms to best advance the interests of the class."

A spokesperson for Clearview did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Coleman gave the plaintiffs' attorneys a Dec. 15 deadline to discuss their coordination plans. She also ordered the Loevy firm to propose a compensation process that would "prevent future attorney fee disputes."

The Loevy firm in October won a $228 million jury verdict against BNSF Railway Co in a lawsuit in Chicago federal court that alleged violations of the state's biometric privacy law.

The case is In re Clearview AI Inc Consumer Privacy Litigation, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 1:21-cv-00135.

Read more:

Lawyer says ex-firm is not equipped to lead Clearview AI lawsuit

Law firm says ex-lawyer is trying to take over Clearview AI lawsuit

Judge picks Loevy & Loevy lawyer to lead in Clearview AI privacy litigation

Reporting by Mike Scarcella

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