The federal judge refereeing a court battle over the National Security Agency’s phone-snooping program said Wednesday he will allow a conservative lawyer’s lawsuit to proceed with new plaintiffs but urged the attorney to narrow his focus in order to speed up the case.
Despite attempts by attorney Larry Klayman to push the court to question the government on whether it had specifically collected data from his phone records, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon urged Mr. Klayman to keep the case specific to new plaintiffs — who used a phone company already known to have provided data to the NSA.
Mr. Klayman is pursuing another preliminary injunction as he looks to revive his lawsuit following a federal appeals court ruling in August that determined he had not demonstrated standing to sue over the controversial phone-snooping program.
A three-judge panel did not weigh in on the legality of the NSA program, but rather found that Mr. Klayman had failed to show that his own phone records were collected by the NSA and sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.
Wednesday’s hearing set forth a schedule of arguments for Mr. Klayman’s case as he pursues of a preliminary injunction against the government. Both sides will meet Oct. 8 for oral arguments.
An initial injunction granted by Judge Leon was put on hold until the appeals court ruled in August to overturn it.
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In a prior hearing, Judge Leon laid out a road map for Mr. Klayman to more quickly revive his case. As part of his advice, the judge suggested Mr. Klayman find a new plaintiff who used Verizon Business Network Services for cellphone service — which is known to have been providing data to the NSA under the phone-snooping program.
Last week, Mr. Klayman asked to amend his ongoing lawsuit to add California law firm J.J. Little and Associates and lawyer Jeffrey James Little as plaintiffs, noting that the criminal defense lawyer’s firm subscribes to Verizon Business Network Services.
Mr. Klayman and the other original plaintiffs in the case had used Verizon Wireless.
Mr. Klayman said in court that the government should be made to address the question of whether it collected data from Verizon Wireless.
“They will go to any length to avoid confirming but it needs to be done,” he said.
But with the clock ticking in the case — legislation approved this summer will force the government to halt its bulk collection of data on Nov. 29 — Judge Leon urged Mr. Klayman to stick to information regarding the new plaintiffs, the Little law firm.
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“While that may have something to do with whether your metadata was harvested, it will have nothing to do with whether the Little’s metadata was,” Judge Leon said.
Government lawyers sought to prevent discovery in the case on the matter of whether Verizon Wireless participated in the program, noting in court filings ahead of the hearing that doing so “could call for the disclosure of classified national-security information, in which case the Government would have to consider whether to assert the state secrets privilege over that information.”
Mr. Klayman suggested that the judge could hear the issue in camera and make a ruling without publicly disclosing the security matters at hand.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gilligan said that sort of review would “not be an appropriate way to proceed.”
Despite being asked to narrow the focus of his arguments for now, Mr. Klayman said afterward that he thought the hearing went well.
“As long as we get the precedent, that’s good,” he said. “We’ve got a good chance of a preliminary injunction on Oct. 8.”