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Obama-nominated judge to hear U.S. antitrust case against Google

WASHINGTON: U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, who was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama, has been selected to hear the U.S. Justice Department’s case against Alphabet‘s Google, according to a court filing on Wednesday.

Mehta, who was confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2014, heard a Federal Trade Commission fight to block a merger of Sysco and U.S. Foods. In 2015, he ruled for the government and the deal was abandoned.

In this case, the U.S. Justice Department is accusing Google of illegally using its market muscle to hobble rivals. It is the biggest challenge to the power and influence of Big Tech in decades.

The Justice Department lawsuit could lead to the break-up of an iconic company that has become all but synonymous with the internet and assumed a central role in the day-to-day lives of billions of people. The case is likely to take years to resolve.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mehta. The search and advertising company has called the lawsuit itself “deeply flawed,” adding that people “use Google because they choose to – not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”

In May 2019, Mehta ruled in favor of a U.S. House of Representatives committee seeking President Donald Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm.

Mehta was previously a partner at the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder LLP and was born in India in 1971 and moved to the United States at the age of 1. He also worked as a public defender in Washington for five years.

The federal lawsuit that was filed on Tuesday marks a rare moment of agreement between the Trump administration and progressive Democrats. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted on Sept. 10, using the hashtag #BreakUpBigTech, that she wanted “swift, aggressive action.”

Still, coming just days before the U.S. presidential election, the filing’s timing could be seen as a political gesture since it fulfills a promise made by President Donald Trump to his supporters to hold certain companies to account for allegedly stifling conservative voices.

Republican lawmakers have sought, without explaining how, to use antitrust laws to compel Big Tech to stop these alleged limitations.

Google shares rose 3.9% in morning trading.

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