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Federal Judge Allows Paul Weiss to Continue Representing Google in Monopoly Case

 |  October 15, 2023

Law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison has received the green light to continue its representation of Alphabet Inc.’s Google in the Justice Department’s ongoing case against the tech giant, reported Bloomberg. The case revolves around allegations of Google’s monopolistic practices in the advertising technology sector.

The decision came from Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in a Friday bench ruling within the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The ruling dismissed a motion filed by Yelp Inc. and the News/Media Alliance (NMA) trade group, which aimed to disqualify Paul Weiss from representing Google. The basis for their motion was the contention that the law firm faced a conflict of interest due to its previous legal work on behalf of Yelp and NMA. However, Judge Brinkema ruled that this motion failed to demonstrate a genuine risk of prejudice per Bloomberg.

The Justice Department filed its lawsuit against Google in January, asserting that the tech giant had monopolized the online advertising technology sector, illicitly profiting from both advertisers and those selling advertising space by controlling a central marketplace.

Judge Brinkema’s ruling sets a high bar for claims of ethics violations concerning lawyers from the same firm representing opposing sides in similar cases. She pointed out that if such an approach were widely applied, it could disqualify most large law firms from handling similar matters.

Related: Google’s New ‘Bard’ AI Calls Google A Monopoly

While many states’ ethics rules prohibit lawyers from switching sides in a case without permission from previous clients, the situation in the Google case is more complex. Paul Weiss had previously represented Yelp and the News/Media Alliance in antitrust matters related to Google, making the ethics claim more intricate.

Crucially, Judge Brinkema emphasized that it is insufficient for parties to be merely “potentially” affected by the outcome of the ad tech case to establish that they are adverse to Google. Therefore, the motion to disqualify Paul Weiss was not substantiated on these grounds.

However, there are certain constraints moving forward. Google will not be permitted to present any evidence related to Yelp or NMA in the case. Additionally, an attorney who previously represented NMA and Yelp while at Paul Weiss and provided advice on the Google case will not be allowed to participate in future proceedings, per Reuters. The court’s order also stipulates that any information from the law firm’s prior work for NMA and Yelp that could affect the attorneys representing Google must be immediately ceased and reported to the court.

Source: News Bloomberg Law