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Google can keep law firm Paul Weiss in antitrust case, US judge

A federal judge in Virginia on Friday declined to bar the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison from defending Google in the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit accusing the Alphabet unit of monopolizing digital advertising technologies.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia, rejected a request from two former Paul Weiss clients — Yelp (YELP.N) and News/Media Alliance — to disqualify the law firm, a court filing showed.

Brinkema ordered the removal of one of Google’s lawyers at Paul Weiss, however, and said the company could not challenge the credibility of any Yelp witness, a spokesperson for Yelp said after a hearing on the disqualification bid.

“We believe that safeguarding the integrity of the judicial process requires that Paul Weiss, as Yelp’s former law firm on competition matters, be barred from representing Google at all,” Yelp said in a statement.

Yelp and the news organization, which are not defendants in the case, said Google had sought information from them as part of its effort to challenge the government’s allegations.

Attorneys for Yelp and the media coalition accused Paul Weiss of switching sides, telling the court that the firm previously represented them on matters related to the digital ads lawsuit.

Paul Weiss defended its role as Google’s lead law firm in the case, arguing that the Justice Department’s case was not “substantially related” to any of the work that the firm provided to Yelp and the news alliance.

A spokesperson for Paul Weiss declined to comment. In a filing, the firm said it has spent more than 10,000 hours so far on Google’s defense.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has denied the government’s antitrust allegations, and a trial is expected in the case next year.

Google in September tried unsuccessfully to force the Justice Department’s antitrust head, Jonathan Kanter, to be disqualified from leading the ad tech case based on his prior work in private practice for critics of Google, including Yelp. Reuters

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