You would barely know Google is in the middle of one of the most consequential antitrust trials in decades right now. Although some important witnesses have testified in open court and documents have been posted online after a delay, access to the trial is still uncertain and sporadic because Judge Amit Mehta appears to have bought into Google’s argument that the particulars of its search business are simply too sensitive to open up.
This is, of course, a tough position to hold in a trial that is entirely about the particulars of Google’s search business and how it shields that business from competition by striking exclusive deals with various players in the industry — most importantly, Apple. But it appears to have held sway over Judge Mehta, who has made public access to the trial only slightly easier since it started. But even then, court sessions have remained closed with no notice and documents have been posted only days after being discussed on the stand.
“Excluding the public from the courtroom not only impedes its ability to understand how this consequential case is being litigated — it also undermines the public’s faith in its justice system.”
Judge Mehta’s general bent toward opacity has made understanding what’s going on in this trial almost impossible — just compare how much the Google trial is being covered to other major tech trials like FTC v. Microsoft or Epic v. Apple, where the media and public were able to follow and report on the proceedings in nearly real time.
To that end, The New York Times has just filed a motion with the court to open things up. The motion is supported by Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, MLex, and Law360 and argues that Judge Mehta hold hearings before closing the courtroom and provide timely access to exhibits and testimony.
“Sealing the courtroom is an extraordinary step in any case,” argues the Times. “In this litigation, perhaps the most important antitrust trial in decades, the stakes are especially high. Excluding the public from the courtroom not only impedes its ability to understand how this consequential case is being litigated — it also undermines the public’s faith in its justice system.”
The motion also argues that exhibits should be posted in a timely manner and that witness testimony should be unsealed and unredacted unless specific reasons are given. In particular, the motion argues that the testimony of Apple’s Eddy Cue and Google’s Jerry Dischler should be completely unsealed, “given the absence of any justification for these redactions.”
Full disclosure: I’ve asked our legal team to sign The Verge and Vox Media on to any further motions of this kind since covering this trial has basically sucked. You can think whatever you want of Google or the DOJ, but it’s pretty universal that holding a trial of this magnitude behind closed doors means Judge Mehta is asking us to trust him just a little too much.
Here’s the full motion: