A judge, not a jury, will reach the verdict in the upcoming antitrust trial

ALEXANDRIA, VA — A judge, not a jury, will decide whether Google violated federal antitrust laws by building a monopoly on the technology that powers online advertising.

Friday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema was a defeat for the Justice Department, which last year brought the case in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, seeking a jury trial.

However, the government’s right to a jury trial rested largely on the fact that it was seeking monetary damages to compensate federal agencies that had purchased online advertising and claimed they were overcharged as a result of Google’s anticompetitive behavior. The dollar value associated with these claims, however, was relatively small – less than $750,000 – and much less significant than other remedies sought by the government, which could include forcing Google to sell some of its ad technology.

As a result, Google last month took the unusual step of writing the government a check for more than $2 million – the $750,000 in damages the government is seeking, multiplied by three because antitrust cases allow for three times the damages.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, argued that writing the check undermined any government claim for monetary damages and eliminated the need for a jury trial.

At a hearing Friday in Alexandria, Justice Department lawyers argued that the check written by Google was insufficient to defeat the damages claim, sparking a technical discussion about how experts will try to quantify the damages.

Brinkema ruled in favor of Google. She said the amount of the Google check covers the highest possible amount the government sought in its initial filings. She likened receiving the money, which was unconditionally paid to the government regardless of whether the tech giant prevailed in its strike arguments to a jury, to “getting a wheelbarrow of cash.”

In a statement after Friday’s hearing, Google said it was “pleased that the Court has ruled that the case will be heard by a judge. As we have said, this case is a worthless attempt to pick winners and losers in a highly competitive industry that has contributed to the overwhelming economic growth of businesses of all sizes.

In its court filings, Google also argued that the constitutional right to a jury trial did not apply to a civil suit brought by the government. The government disagreed with this claim, but said it would not ask a judge to rule on this constitutional issue.

The antitrust lawsuit in Virginia is different from a case in the District of Columbia that alleged that Google’s search engine constituted an illegal monopoly. The judge there heard the closing arguments in the case, but has not yet issued a verdict.