SCIENCE & TECH: Meet Amit P. Mehta, the judge presiding over Google’s long-awaited antitrust trial
When Google’s long-awaited antitrust trial brought by the US Justice Department kicks off on Tuesday, there won’t be a jury but rather a judge appointed by former President Barack Obama who will preside over the case and issue a final ruling.
That judge, Amit P. Mehta, is tasked with deciding whether Google has used a string of illegal business deals to cement the dominance of its ubiquitous search engine as the DOJ alleges.
The epic trial, which is anticipated to last 10 weeks, will mark the first time Mehta is presiding over a tech policy-centered case of this kind since he was appointed to the to the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Dec. 22, 2014.
Mehta was selected at random to preside over the Justice Department’s case against Google parent Alphabet.
“A dominant firm like Google does not violate the law, however, merely because it occupies a monopoly market position,” Mehta wrote in the ruling.
“It must act in a manner that produces anticompetitive effects in the defined markets. That is, a company with monopoly power acts unlawfully only when its conduct stifles competition.”
All eyes will no doubt be on the judge come Tuesday — three years after the DOJ filed a lawsuit in Washington, DC, claiming that Google has long broken the law in its quest to remain “the gateway to the internet” — illegally gaining a leg up on competitors such as Microsoft’s Bing, Mozilla and DuckDuckGo.
“To deny a President immunity from civil damages is no small step,” Mehta wrote in February 2022 in a 112-page ruling. “The court well understands the gravity of its decision. But the alleged facts of this case are without precedent, and the court believes that its decision is consistent with the purposes behind such immunity.”
The US District Court judge also ruled at the time that Trump could be sued for helping to incite the Capitol riot because his “Stop the Steal” speech in Washington, DC, ahead of the attack was not an official presidential act.
“After all, the President’s actions here do not relate to his duties of faithfully executing the laws, conducting foreign affairs, commanding the armed forces, or managing the Executive Branch,” Mehta wrote in the opinion. “They entirely concern his efforts to remain in office for a second term. These are unofficial acts, so the separation-of-powers concerns that justify the President’s broad immunity are not present here.”
One month earlier, Mehta dismissed the cases against Trump’s lawyer and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who plaintiffs alleged had participated in the conspiracy.
Mehta’s legal career began in 1997 after he graduated with a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law earlier that year, when he worked as an associate for Latham & Watkins’ San Francisco law firm.
In 1999, he worked for boutique DC law firm Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, where he spent much of his career working on criminal prosecutions and investigations until Obama appointed him to the court 15 years later.
While at Zuckerman Spaeder, Mehta gained experience representing white-collar, high-profile clients, including when he served as the attorney for former Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and helped former International Monetary Fund President Dominique Strauss-Kahn defeat criminal assault charges in New York state court.
When he was sworn into the US District Court for the District of Columbia, he became the first Asian Pacific American to do so.
Born in Patan, India, in 1971, Mehta moved to the US with his parents age one, where he was raised in a suburb of Baltimore and went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics from Georgetown University before advancing onto law school.
Though there’s not much public information about Mehta’s personal life, he has revealed his love for hip-hop music throughout rulings over the years.
In a 2015 opinion, when Mehta heard musician Robert Prunty’s case alleging that several music and entertainment companies had infringed his copyright, the judge wrote that he was “capable of concluding as a matter of law, without the assistance of expert testimony, that the songs ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ and ‘Kingdom’ are not substantially similar.”
“This court also does not consider itself an ordinary ‘lay person’ when it comes to hip-hop music and lyrics,” Mehta added in a footnote. “The court has listened to hip hop for decades and considers among his favorite musical artists, perhaps a sign of his age, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake and Eminem.”
In another copyright case brought before him three years later, Mehta quoted lyrics from the Beyoncé song “Sorry,” in the 2018 opinion.
Throughout the nearly three-month-long trial, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, as well as top executives from Apple and other tech companies, are expected to take the witness stand, according to the New York Times.
Collectively, the DOJ and Google have already collectively deposed more than 150 individuals for the case, and have produced more than 5 million pages of documents.
Representatives for Mehta at the US District Court in the District of Columbia did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.