Ananda Wins the SRF Lawsuit — October 1997

After that first summary adjudication motion Ananda rolled from victory to vic­tory in Sacramento. By June 1997 the Ninth Circuit had confirmed Garcia’s prin­cipal orders, and further rulings in the District Court had ground the case down to a handful of claims about some audiotapes and a few photographs. When Judge Garcia set the date the trial would start, he also scheduled a pre-trial conference for September 2, 1997. In federal court this pre-trial conference is a very big deal. You must have the entire case laid out with witness summaries, exhibit lists, motions about evidence, and your arguments concerning liability and damages, such that most of the trial’s paperwork is done before the conference begins. The judge then makes decisions at the pre-trial conference that set the remaining course of the trial.

By that fall, it had become apparent to all that the remaining issues did not war­rant the effort and expense of trial. SRF was already talking about appealing the copyright rulings. Garcia thought his recent ruling might result in settlement with­out trial, and ordered us to explore settlement with our magistrate judge. When the parties could not arrange to meet with Nowinski before the end of August, Garcia decided there was not enough time to both mediate and prepare for the pre-trial conference, and he accordingly vacated all the trial and pre-trial dates. We were thus freed from the distraction and expense of preparing for trial while trying to settle the case. But we no longer had a scheduled trial date to bring closure to the proceedings.

Settlement did not happen, just as it had not happened so often before. Repre­sentatives from both SRF and Ananda met in Pasadena, without the lawyers pres­ent, and discussed the issues and possible resolutions. SRF would not deviate from its position, despite the rulings against it. The Board knew what it wanted, and was willing to gamble to get it.

At the status conference on October 16, 1997, SRF voluntarily dismissed the rest of its case, so that it could immediately appeal the copyright issues. It was risky. If the Ninth Circuit reversed Garcia and remanded the case for trial, SRF could raise the dismissed claims along with whatever else was sent back to Garcia. But if the Court of Appeal affirmed all of Garcia’s rulings, and the Supreme Court re­fused to become involved, the case was over for good. Four days later Judge Garcia signed his Order Clarifying Prior Order and Dismissing Remaining Claims with Judgment. The clerk entered judgment that same day, and when the Clerk’s office closed on October 20, 1997, the case was over. Ananda had won everything. But by now the original lawsuit had spawned a second suit, itself already heading to trial.