Judge mulls two pretrial motions in domestic
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
December 22, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A federal judge who is presiding
over more than three dozen domestic surveillance lawsuits heard
arguments on two pretrial motions in his San Francisco courtroom
but deferred ruling on them.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker did not say when he will decide
on the requests, which include a bid to have evidentiary documents
unsealed and a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union and
12 citizens to send two of the cases back to San Francisco Superior
Court, where they were originally filed.
The lawsuits were filed by citizens and groups in courts around
the country against telecommunications companies including AT&T
Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp.
They accuse the corporations of aiding the National Security
Agency in alleged illegal warrantless surveillance of Americans'
phone calls and e-mails.
The cases were consolidated in Walker's court for purposes of
Also at yesterday's hearing, the judge agreed to a request by
lawyers for the plaintiffs to postpone the next hearing in the
cases from Feb. 1 to Feb. 13.
At that hearing, Walker will consider the government's request
for a stay of trial court proceedings until the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals rules on the government's claim that the lawsuits
should be dismissed because state secrets could be revealed.
The U.S. Justice Department is appealing Walker's refusal in
July to dismiss a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco
in January by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of
The EFF case was the first lawsuit to be filed in the wake of
news reports last year revealing the alleged surveillance program.
The appeals court decision on the state secrets claim is not
expected until next spring or later.
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