PORTLAND -- The Maine Civil Liberties Union expressed disappointment today that the lawsuit concerning Maine phone customer privacy has been transferred to a Federal Court in California. MCLU Staff Attorney Zachary Heiden argued before a federal panel in January that legal actions concerning phone customer privacy should stay in the states where they originated. The MCLU has vowed to continue its fight for answers about what exactly Verizon did with Maine phone customer records.
In 2006, activists across the country brought actions before local Public Utility Commissions seeking protection of privacy rights. Those actions have resulted in lawsuits, and the Federal Court's Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has now decided that those cases should be consolidated in a single court in California. The United States and the phone companies argued in favor of consolidation and transfer.
"This makes our job harder, but we are as determined as ever to get to the truth," said Zachary Heiden, staff attorney with the MCLU Foundation. "Mainers have the right to find out whether their personal privacy has been violated."
The Maine case, U.S. v. Adams et al, will now join cases from around the country, before Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco. There, discovery against the phone companies and the Federal Government will be managed by Judge Walker. Judge Walker will also oversee the disposition of any pre-trial motions. Once discovery is complete, U.S. v. Adams et al may be transferred back to Maine for a trial on the merits.
"The United States is adept at using procedures like this to delay our search for the truth," said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the MCLU, "but we will not be deterred. The government should not be spying on ordinary Mainers like our clients who have done nothing wrong."
More information about the ACLU’s National campaign against government spying is available at: www.aclu.org/nsaspying