A federal judge in Virginia made a significant decision on Friday regarding the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison’s involvement in defending Google against the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit, which accuses Google of monopolizing digital advertising technologies under Alphabet (GOOGL.O).
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, based in Alexandria, Virginia, issued a court order rejecting a request from two former clients of Paul Weiss: Yelp (YELP.N) and News/Media Alliance.
The request sought to disqualify the law firm from representing Google in this case.
While the judge allowed Paul Weiss to continue its representation of Google, she did order the removal of one of Google’s lawyers from the firm.
Additionally, she prohibited Google from challenging the credibility of any witnesses presented by Yelp.
Yelp, along with the News/Media Alliance, expressed concerns about Google’s request for information from them as part of its defense strategy against the government’s allegations.
They argued that Paul Weiss had previously represented them in matters related to the digital advertising lawsuit and believed that the law firm’s involvement in Google’s defense compromised the integrity of the judicial process.
Paul Weiss defended its role as Google’s lead law firm, asserting that the Justice Department’s case was not “substantially related” to any previous work the firm had undertaken for Yelp and the news alliance.
Paul Weiss declined to comment on the matter but disclosed that it had dedicated over 10,000 hours to Google’s defense.
Meanwhile, Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment, maintaining its denial of the government’s antitrust allegations. A trial for the case is anticipated next year.
This legal dispute is not the first involving disqualification requests.
Previously, Google attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to have Jonathan Kanter, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, disqualified from leading the ad tech case due to his prior work in private practice for Google’s critics, including Yelp.
In summary, a federal judge in Virginia allowed Paul Weiss to continue representing Google in the digital advertising monopolization case but took steps to address potential conflicts of interest, emphasizing the importance of preserving the integrity of the judicial process.
The legal battle between Google and the Justice Department is expected to continue with a trial scheduled for the coming year.