U.S. judge in Google case seeks more information on attorney-client privilege

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The federal judge hearing the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google asked for more information on Tuesday before deciding if he will sanction the search and advertising company for allegedly abusing attorney-client privilege.

The department had asked for the sanction based on Google’s “Communicate with Care” program, which asked employees to add a lawyer to many emails. The government said it was sometimes a “game” to shield communications that should not have been protected.

Judge Amit Mehta said last week that he was not convinced he had the power to sanction a company for actions taken before the lawsuit was filed. Mehta on Tuesday asked the government and Google, which had opposed the sanction, to identify any cases that would buttress their arguments for or against the sanction.

Mehta also ordered Google to produce a random sample of 210 of the 21,000 emails for review.

“Upon completing its review, the court will determine whether an order compelling disclosure of the full set of the disputed emails or some other course of action is appropriate,” Mehta said in his order.

The Justice Department filed the lawsuit against Google in 2020, accusing it of violating antitrust law in its handling of its search business. Trial was set for September 2023.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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