Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Government Lies; Google Lawyers Flail

Checked out the Google vs. Abu Gonzalez privacy trial down in San Jose yesterday. Was semi-interesting. Took a few notes:

Judge Ware seemed like a pretty OK dude. Met one of his students. Apparently Judge Ware teaches a civil procedure course at Santa Clara University Law School. (So, what's up with this story? No idea if true, but kinda/very/extremely wack, if true.) The Judge invited his students back into his chamber after the trial. I thought that was cool. The student I talked to said he's a really good teacher.

First, it's possible to get to downtown San Jose via the Caltrain - for all you San Franciscans who don't drive - takes about an hour.

The courtroom was filled - about 60 or so in attendance. This case is a bit freaky because it's a 'separate action' case - it has to do with the government trying to obtain evidence to use in support of another trial the government is dealing with in Pennsylvania, vs. the Pennsylvania ACLU. Google has two lead attorneys there, and the Penn ACLU guy was there - on the same side. The gubment had one dude there.

The court reporter/typer kept interrupting the government's lawyer who gave his oral argument first. He must've been mumbling some stuff, and a couple of times used some techie-type terms.

Government's case seemed very weak from the outset - Judge jumped on it. Judge asked why the government didn't just do a biz deal with Google - for money, instead of using the courts. The gub lawyer lied and spit some nonsense in what amounted to telling the judge 'Fuck You' while at the same time saying 'because we can' (use the courts). Judge says he's concerned about Google getting tied up in future legal proceedings regarding this data he's going to force them to hand over (they will). Gubment says, effectively, "don't worry".

Judge expresses concern about 4th Amendment issues. What about Googles' users' privacy? Gubment says, effectively, "dont' worry". Judge says this case has a different 'tint' because the government is a private party, but it's the government, so 4th Amendment issues apply (whereas maybe otherwise they wouldn't??).

Judge says something like, so if I type in "john smith is a terrorist and cavorts with osama bin laden on wednesdays at club x in downtown san francisco", then the gubment is just going to ignore that completely? It won't follow-up on that data at all? Gubment says, "yes". Judge accepts the lie.

AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft have already handed-over data. Gubment originally demanded billions of URLs from Google's index and millions of data points for keyword searches - they've scaled it back twice, this time drastically, to 50,000 URLs and 1,000 keyword searches.

Google basically had it tee-ed up, but the Google lawyer just fucked it up completely. I mean, it was horrible. I mean, we need minimal competence here, folks. Get David Boies or someone, at least.

So, the Giggle lawyer - from Seattle for some unGodly reason - comes out and basically says, "we know we have the gubment on the ropes, but we're really not interested in contesting this case, so fuck it, Judge - just rule in the gubment's favor so we can go to an early lunch - it's lookin up out there". (It was 'lookin up' out there - turned into a beautiful day.)

Google starts by saying "50K URLs is all you need? No sweat." Ok - I was thinking, "WHAT THE FUCK, ASSHOLE?!" But, I was thinking he's got a show-stopper up his sleave, even though he just totally sucked the momentum out of Giggle's favor. Not. No show-stopper ever appeared. He did have a mind-maddening description of the 'relevancy' issue - jesus christmas. Unfuckingbelievable. He kept explaining to the Judge that the information that the gubment wanted wasn't relevant, but it was so fucking obviously relevant to everyone in the court that we were like "WTF are you talking about, JERKY?". He kept on saying, effectively, "Judge - the gubment wants to know if our automobile had snow chains at the time of the accident, but we contend that it was MONDAY AFTERNOON, so obviously, it's not relevant." So fucking frustrating.

To all future lawyers out there - make a note to self: Don't try to act all cool in front of the Judge because he will just end up ignoring what you say, and your client will lose. In this case, it was Google's users who lost (me!), and the American people, in general. This shit is precedent-setting.

Penn ACLU lawyer was not quite as bad as the Giggle lawyer. He sounded real nervous. He also tried to confuse the Judge about a bunch of things, and the Judge just ignored him, too.

Gub did a quick rebuttal and essentially said, "the reason we didn't tell Giggle about only wanting 50k URL's instead of BILLIONS was " - check this out - " a failure to communicate". Hilarious. Judge was thinking, "Bull. Shit."

Lot of talk about some mysterious 'Professor Stark'.

Judge's daughter is some kind of intern/fellow with the NYC ACLU.

Here's the kicker with this whole fucked-up government invasion of privacy trial - the government wants all this info - they want to spy on the people of the United States and they're getting the search engines - private companies - to do it for them - all for the purposes of the government testing web filtering software. That's what they claim, and I SHIT. YOU. NOT.

UPDATE: Though we can't remember where we read the information, we did read one account from Judge Ware that seemed to be a plausible explanation for his lie, but we're not sure what to think, honestly. He said something about misinformation about someone's half-brother thinking they thought someone else's half-brother was there or not there or something else. Might just depend on whether or not you want to make it a big deal or not. But, it does seem that Judge Ware was reprimanded, so that's a pretty big deal.

No comments: