Forty State AGs allowed to participate in Appeal hearing in the Google v AG Hood case

By Nicole Daniel

On November 11, 2015, a group of forty state attorneys general asked to participate in oral arguments on December 1, 2015 before the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in the appeal of an injunction stemming from a case between Google and Mississippi AG Jim Hood. They were permitted to do so.

In October 2014 AG Hood’s office issued a 79-page subpoena on Google asking for, inter alia, dozens of interviews and specific documents. This subpoena was part of an investigation into whether search and business practices by Google violate state law.

On December 19, 2014 Google filed a complaint against AG Hood alleging that he violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution through threats of criminal prosecution and civil litigation, as well as through an allegedly punitive subpoena.

On March 27, 2015 District Court Judge Henry Wingate blocked AG Hood’s investigation; his preliminary injunction relived Google from having to answer AG Hood’s investigative subpoena on whether Google profited from allegedly facilitating illegal online activity. The oral arguments relate to this injunction.

In their brief the State AGs claimed that they have a powerful interest in the case as it regards their own authority to investigate possible violations of state law. Further, AG Hood was even willing to share his time during the oral arguments with former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who represents the state AGs and wrote their brief. Google did not consent to that motion; however it was granted and the State AGs were able to participate.

Non-profit advocacy groups also submitted a separate amicus brief. The Court of Appeals has denied Google’s motion to disqualify the Digital Citizens Alliance, one of the advocacy groups, from participating.

The Court of Appeals has not yet ruled on the appeal.