Texas Appeals Court Vacates Order Commanding Google To Hunt Down Third Party Content And Destroy It

from the violating-both-due-process-and-the-realm-of-possibility dept

Back in April, a Texas district court judge (well, a "visiting judge") ordered Google to do the following:

The gag order, signed by visiting San Antonio Judge Richard Price in February 2013, forces Google and other search engines to wipe out all record of the allegations from the Internet. It also compels the search engine to find third parties who posted the information to get it back and destroy it.
This was to be done on behalf of Calvin C. Jackson, an attorney who was accused of forging signatures on court records. It's unknown whether the judge actually read what he was signing or if he did, whether he recognized how completely ridiculous the request was. Google may index the web and hold a commanding lead in the search engine market, but it certainly doesn't have the ability to demand third parties turn over and/or destroy content.

That the whole thing took place under seal and out of the public eye made it even more ridiculous. The court order demanding the impossible was also placed under seal, presumably to protect Jackson from being further linked to the allegations he was trying to bury. We can all see how well that worked out.

Now, a Texas appeals court has released Google from having to do things it's not capable of. The court decision isn't predicated on Google's inability to carry out Jackson's demands. Instead, it hinges on the fact that Google should never have been part of the whole debacle.
The order identified Google as an entity to whom the order must be sent. The order further required all identified recipients to expunge or destroy all records relating to the action other than certain, specifically identified records….

Constitutional due process requires a party to be served with process and to receive notice of an action to which it is an interested party. A judgment rendered in violation of due process is void…

It is clear from the record that Google was never named as a party to the suit, was never served with process, never waived or accepted process, and never made an appearance in the suit before the expunction order was entered. Nothing in the record establishes that Google stands in privity to the commission or to Jackson. Accordingly, we hold that Google was not a party to the suit and that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter orders against Google.
As Eugene Volokh notes, this seems obvious enough. But it wasn't obvious to the lower court which ordered Google to go door-to-door around the internet with a paper shredder in tow.

Beyond the normal First Amendment ramifications, there's also the fact that Jackson was effectively asking the court (and Google by extension) to destroy public records. The allegations against Jackson weren't simply blog posts or newspaper articles. These allegations were part of a lawsuit brought against the attorney (the same lawsuit that didn't include Google). Public records can be expunged, but that's limited to what the court itself directly controls. Anything already posted to the internet is out of its reach. Calvin Jackson's quest for an allegation-free existence is futile, and every additional legal effort seems to place it just that much further out of reach.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    S. T. Stone, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Perhaps he should sue Barbara Streisand next.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 10:26am

    "visiting judge"

    Well, I suppose if the judge is visiting from the EU, they may think it's possible for Google to make things disappear.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 10:27am

    This was to be done on behalf of Calvin C. Jackson, an attorney who was accused of forging signatures on court records. It's unknown whether the judge actually read what he was signing or if he did, whether he recognized how completely ridiculous the request was.
    Obvious question: is it at least known that the judge signed the order, as opposed to Calvin C. Jackson forging a judge's signature on the order? If he is already allegedly forging signatures on court records, ...

     

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  •  
    icon
    who cares (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 10:49am

    Can someone take a trip to the EU

    There is a court here that needs to be explained that they did something like that with their mind boggling implementation of the right to be forgotten.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:01am

      Re: Can someone take a trip to the EU

      At least the EU court ordered Google to do the possible, not link to identified URLs. That is infinitely more doable that going round the world and ordering that the pages linked to by the URLs are removed from the web.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 3:52pm

        Re: Re: Can someone take a trip to the EU

        Just wait until the Streisand Effect search engine appears. It compares all Google EU results to Google US results and highlights the differences removed by the forgotten in the EU.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Digital Droid, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 2:43pm

      Re: Can someone take a trip to the EU

      Leave it to the EU to complicate things. Remember their cookie directive?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    sorrykb (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 10:56am

    One point for Sanity

    It's a pity the ruling didn't incorporate the fact that Google is not the internet. But, still, a victory.

    On an unrelated note...
    ordered Google to go door-to-door around the internet with a paper shredder in tow.
    [knock] "Land Shark! I mean, Google!"

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Michael, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:00am

      Re: One point for Sanity

      They cannot just "rule" that Google isn't the internet. That would be like ruling that the Earth is not round or that James Clapper is not a liar.

      Rulings cannot change reality.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        S. T. Stone, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:18am

        Re: Re: One point for Sanity

        In what reality do you live in where Google controls the entire Internet?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Michael, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:24am

          Re: Re: Re: One point for Sanity

          Google controls the entire Internet

          That's not what I said. I said Google IS the Internet. Get it straight - one in the same - live with it.

          When did everyone's sarcasm meter break?

           

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          •  
            identicon
            jackn, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:30am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: One point for Sanity

            Meters are working fine. Perhaps your sacasm generator is broke.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            Bergman (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 4:25pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: One point for Sanity

            Perhaps because you used the word "isn't" in your pist, which has the opposite meaning from the word "is" that you now claim you used?

             

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  •  
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    sorrykb (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:15am

    Michael wrote:
    They cannot just "rule" that Google isn't the internet.

    I was thinking (wishfully) more along the lines of a "BTW, idiots..." about facts included along with the ruling on law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:32am

    Doesn't Calvin C. Jackson realize that he has now enabled the Streisand Effect which will prompts everyone with access to the internet to start posting the 'allegations' on as many websites as they possibly can?

    LOLS

    STREISAND EFFECT IS A GO!

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:39am

    Due Process

    " A judgment rendered in violation of due process is voidů "

    Hmmm...where else might this be appropriate?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 12:07pm

      Re: Due Process

      " A judgment rendered in violation of due process is voidů "

      That depends upon how much process you are "due", which depends nowadays on how deep your pockets are. Google has deep pockets. Myself, not so much.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Michael, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 12:17pm

      Re: Due Process

      waterboarding is a process, isn't it?

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 8:18pm

        Re: Re: Due Process

        "waterboarding is a process, isn't it?"

        Ah, now I understand the new "government lawyer approved" meaning of "due process".

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    John Cressman, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 12:23pm

    John

    "Calvin Jackson's quest for an allegation-free existence is futile, and every additional legal effort seems to place it just that much further out of reach."

    Unless he lives in Europe! Home of Nazi's, Book burnings, Inquisitions and... Google Gags!

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 8:25pm

      Re: John

      "Unless he lives in Europe! Home of Nazi's, Book burnings, Inquisitions and... "

      Those are things I would imagine plenty of Europeans want forgotten. Expect them to soon start demanding that Google delete links to sites mentioning those things. It's their right now!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
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        kenichi tanaka (profile), Jun 11th, 2014 @ 4:06pm

        Re: Re: John

        AC, that wouldn't work because the request for a link to be removed must be a link in reference of a specific person. NAZI links regarding the Holocaust cannot be removed, to do so would encourage many to believe that the Holocaust didn;t actually happen.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2014 @ 7:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: John

          "NAZI links regarding the Holocaust cannot be removed, to do so would encourage many to believe that the Holocaust didn;t actually happen."

          I see. So to make a something that Google cannot remove, all you have to do mention NAZI and Holocaust in and it will be bulletproof. Interesting theory you have there. Got anything to back it up?

           

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  •  
    identicon
    KRA, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 3:01pm

    Is it me or are lower court judges generally provincial and/or ignorant about the law and/or flagrantly corrupt with no fear of consequences?

     

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  •  
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    Bergman (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 4:27pm

    To comply with the order Google would have had to violate the CFAA too -- wouldn't being ordered to commit hundreds if not thousands of felonies void the order?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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