By Mike Scarcella
(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is fighting to keep its digital advertising lawsuit against Google in Virginia federal district court, warning of potential prolonged litigation if the Alphabet Inc unit wins its effort to transfer the government’s new case to New York.
In a court filing on Friday, the Justice Department, along with Virginia and other state plaintiffs, said federal and state enforcers are owed “substantial deference” as to where they want to bring a lawsuit.
The case, alleging anticompetitive abuses of advertising technology, was filed in January in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court and threatens to break up a key part of Google’s business. Google has denied violating U.S. antitrust law in its digital ad practices.
A lawyer for Google at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and a spokesperson for the company on Monday did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Monday.
Google’s lawyers want U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria to transfer the lawsuit to Manhattan, where related antitrust cases from other states, publishers and media companies are pending as part of multidistrict litigation. Google has argued consolidation will minimize the potential for inconsistent rulings.
But moving the case to the Southern District of New York won’t eliminate the chance of divergent trial judgments or appellate decisions, the DOJ’s lawyers said. The cases consolidated in New York can return to their originating district courts for trial, the government told Brinkema.
The DOJ said in its filing that transferring the case to Manhattan would mean a trial in 2025 “at the earliest.”
“The need for swift action is particularly pronounced in this case given the pace of change in technology and the dynamic nature of Google’s anticompetitive conduct across the ad tech industry,” lawyers for the DOJ, Virginia and other states, including New York and California, said in their filing.
In its bid seeking to get the DOJ case to New York, Google’s lawyers said the government’s “case lags far behind other pending ad tech antitrust cases” and “adds nothing of substance to those earlier-filed cases.”
Brinkema will weigh the dispute on Friday at a hearing.
The case is United States et al v. Google LLC, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 1:23-cv-00108-LMB-IDD.
For DOJ: Julia Tarver Wood and Aaron Teitelbaum of the DOJ
For Virginia: Andrew Ferguson of Virginia Attorney General’s Office
For Google: Eric Mahr and Tyler Garrett of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
U.S. targets Google’s online ad business monopoly in latest Big Tech lawsuit
(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; editing by Leigh Jones)