The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned a district judge who had sided with Google. U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate ruled last year that the unit of Alphabet Inc. didn’t have to answer a subpoena by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.
Hood began complaining in 2012 that Google wasn’t doing enough to prevent people from breaking the law. In October 2014, he sent a 79-page subpoena demanding Google produce information about a wide range of subjects, including whether Google helps criminals by allowing its search engine to lead to pirated music, having its autocomplete function suggest illegal activities and sharing YouTube ad revenue with the makers of videos promoting illegal drug sales. Instead of complying, Google sued.
The appeals court also dissolved the lower judge’s injunction that had barred Hood from bringing any civil or criminal lawsuits against the Mountain View, California-based company, saying that a mere subpoena wasn’t enough to rule that Hood was acting in bad faith.
“This injunction covers a fuzzily defined range of enforcement actions that do not appear imminent,” Chief Circuit Judge Carl E. Stewart wrote for a three-judge panel. “We cannot on the present record predict what conduct Hood might one day try to prosecute under Mississippi law.”
The judges also noted that Hood would have to go to state court to force Google to comply with the administrative subpoena and that Google could challenge Hood’s requests then.