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Hip-Hop Loving Judge Amit Mehta to Preside Over DOJ’s Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google

Hip-Hop Loving Judge Amit Mehta to Preside Over DOJ’s Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google

  • He was appointed by President Obama to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December 2014, becoming the first Asia Pacific American appointment there.

Judge Amit Priyavadan Mehta of United States District Court for the District of Columbia has been assigned the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Google. The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google over allegations that its search and advertising empire violated federal antitrust laws.

According to a report in The Washington Post, the federal government’s landmark lawsuit caps off a roughly year-long investigation that concluded Google wielded its digital dominance to the detriment of corporate rivals and consumers. The complaint contends that Google relied on a mix of special agreements and other problematic business practices to secure an insurmountable lead in online search, capturing the market for nearly 90 percent of all queries in the United States.

The DOJ’s complaint states, “Absent a court order, Google will continue executing its anticompetitive strategy, crippling the competitive process, reducing consumer choice, and stifling innovation,” adding, “For the sake of American consumers, advertisers, and all companies now reliant on the internet economy, the time has come to stop Google’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition.”

This possibly lengthy legal battle between Washington and Silicon Valley could have lasting implications for the entire tech industry. 

Talking to The Post, Google rejected the government’s claims as “deeply flawed.”

Kent Walker, the company’s chief legal officer, defended Google’s business practices, arguing that consumers nationwide still have the choice to use its rivals’ online offerings.

Early in his tenure on the federal bench, he made waves with a case in which the Federal Trade Commission was seeking to block the proposed merger of the nation’s two largest food distributors, Sysco Corp. and US Foods.

The Gujarat-born Judge Mehta is relatively new to the bench, but not to antitrust cases. He was appointed by President Obama to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December 2014, becoming the first Asia Pacific American appointment there. Early in his tenure on the federal bench, he made waves with a case in which the Federal Trade Commission was seeking to block the proposed merger of the nation’s two largest food distributors, Sysco Corp. and US Foods.

Judge Mehta issued an injunction blocking the deal, saying in a 128-page ruling that the tie-up was the type of large combination that spurred Congress, decades earlier, to give the government the power to halt mergers. Sysco abandoned the transaction days later. 

His other notable cases include ruling that President Donald Trump could not block a subpoena from a House committee seeking financial records from his accounting firm. The case has been referred to the Supreme Court and is still being litigated. This decision brought the ire of Trump on Judge Mehta, as he slammed it as a “crazy decision by an Obama appointed judge.”

Mehta began his career in a San Francisco law firm before clerking in the Ninth Circuit Court. From there, he went onto work at the Washington DC-based law firm, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP where he focused on white-collar criminal cases, complex business disputes and appellate advocacy. 

At Zuckerman Spaeder, former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a civil suit brought by Nafissatou Diallo, the housekeeper, who accused him of raping her. They settled after the criminal case was dropped. 

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He also represented a lawyer involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spills claims litigation.

He served as a public defender in Washington for five years. 

Young Judge Mehta is a hip-hop lover, according to his judicial writings. In a footnote to a 2015 opinion involving a copyright claim, the judge said he did not need expert testimony to determine that two songs “were not substantially similar” because he “was not and ordinary lay person when it comes to hip-hop music and lyrics” having “listened to hip-hop for decades,” counting Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake and Eminem amongst his favorites.  He also cited lyrics from the Beyoncé song Sorry from her classic album Lemonade in a 2018 opinion on another copyright case.

Born in India, Mehta immigrated to the U.S. at age one, with his parents, Priyavadan Mehta, an engineer and Ragini Mehta, a lab technician. He was raised outside of Baltimore, Maryland. He earned his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University in 1993 and graduated from the University of Virginia’s law school in 1997. 

(Top photo: File photo of attorney Amit Mehta pleading for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in the Strauss-Kahn vs. Nafissatou Diallo at New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx March 28, 2012.)

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