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Trump Judge Casts the Deciding Vote Denying Class Action in a Consumer Suit Against Apple: Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

Donald Trump and Judge Eric Miller
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Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties.

In November 2019, Trump Ninth Circuit judge Eric Miller cast the deciding vote denying certification of a class action in a consumer suit against Apple and AT&T regarding wireless services. The case is Ward v. Apple Inc.

Zach Ward and Thomas Buchar alleged that Apple entered into an exclusive agreement with AT&T Mobility (ATTM) to violate antitrust laws. Apple installed software locks on each phone it sold, preventing iPhone owners from switching and using the device with a carrier other than ATTM. Ward and Buchar claimed the agreement allowed ATTM to charge high prices for wireless services and force iPhone users to continue to use ATTM even after their two-year service contract with ATTM expired, all while Apple and ATTM shared the revenues.

Ward and Buchar tried to sue on behalf of a class of iPhone users, but lost a motion for class action certification in district court. They appealed to the Ninth Circuit, arguing that the district court abused its discretion.

The majority, including Judge Eric Miller, affirmed the district court’s ruling, concluding that Ward and Buchar failed to prove that sufficiently numerous parties would be harmed by Apple’s agreement with ATTM.

Judge Jacqueline Nguyen disagreed, maintaining that the case should have been remanded. She explained that Ward and Buchar presented a declaration by an experienced economist as well as expert data from a separate case also involving Apple, but the district court summarized it instead of rigorously analyzing the content to consider the antitrust impact on individuals.