Say this for Ninth Circuit Judge Carlos Bea: The man honors commitments.
A former Olympic athlete, Bea owns box seats to the San Francisco Giants. But on the same night Pablo Sandoval was making history in Game One of the World Series, the judge made good on a promise to moderate a debate on antitrust law at the Federalist Society.
If Bea didn’t seem quite as cheerful as his usual self, joked San Francisco chapter president David DeGroot, it was because he’d sacrificed his ninth row tickets.
“Thank you David,” Bea smiled, “and we won’t say anything more about those tickets.”
While the debate could never compare with an 8-3 thrashing of the Tigers, it was pretty lively. The subject was the FTC’s antitrust investigation of Google for allegedly using its dominant position in search to manipulate results for profit.
Ronald Cass, a former dean of Boston University School of Law and ex-ITC commissioner, said it’s folly for regulators to try to predict where competitive forces will lead. Until just recently, nobody imagined that the markets for cellphones and cameras would converge, for example. “This is the nature of change,” said Cass, of Virginia's Cass & Associates. So its counterproductive to penalize Google for building a top search franchise when it just as likely might get disrupted by Facebook, Siri or some other technology yet to be envisioned.
Covington & Burling partner Thomas Barnett said that may be true in the long run, but “in the long run, as Keynes said, we’re all dead.” In the meantime, Google should not be allowed to use its dominant position to deceive users by directing them to paid advertisers or Google affiliates like YouTube, while threatening to shut out rivals like Yelp who object to Google scraping their content, said Barnett, a former assistant attorney general for antitrust who acknowledged that he now represents some Google competitors.
As for Judge Bea’s choice of venues, Barnett joked that he was “honored but saddened to question the judgment of a U.S. Court of Appeals judge. It is indeed an honor to be here and I very much appreciate your sacrifice.”