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Judge Sets Apple Document Deadline Amid DOJ Pressure

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington set a Sept. 30 deadline for Apple to complete production of some 1.5 million documents DOJ requested in its antitrust case against Google in docket 1:20-cv-03010 (in Pacer) (see 2107300035).

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Mehta ordered Apple to make “good faith efforts” to complete production by Sept. 30. He set the deadline during a Thursday status hearing in which DOJ Civil Division trial attorney Kenneth Dintzer accused Apple of “slow-rolling” production since the department issued its February subpoena. Apple’s role in the case is “enormously important,” said Dintzer. Apple is Google’s largest distributor of Search, and Google’s contracts are at the center of this case, he said. He noted Apple makes $8 billion-$10 billion annually from Google, which is 15%-20% of Apple’s worldwide revenue.

Apple hasn’t disputed the relevancy of the records or DOJ’s search strings, noted Mehta: It’s a question of “tailoring and volume” for the 1.5 million documents. The judge asked DOJ whether that volume is necessary. Apple won’t give DOJ deconstructed hit reports, so the department doesn’t know what lines of inquiry are producing what documents effectively, said Dintzer. Getting a small number of documents with super targeted terms won’t suffice, he said: DOJ needs to examine details of “interior negotiations” and what the company is discussing before it negotiates with Google. Mehta ordered Apple to produce deconstructed hit reports on the top five search strings by Monday.

That timeline might not be possible, said Apple attorney Steven Sunshine. Sunshine detailed the burden on the company and contract attorneys in producing some 2 million documents, saying they’ve been rolling out documents every two weeks. DOJ's search strings are “demonstrably too broad,” he said. He told the judge Apple wants to come to reasonable terms with DOJ in narrowing the search string results, saying the company isn’t holding back documents. He also suggested there wouldn’t be a major difference between a deadline at the end of September or mid-October.

Erin Shencopp, an attorney with the Colorado attorney general’s office, disagreed: “The two weeks can matter here, given the schedule that we’re on. Deadlines can be a motivating force.” Apple has the resources to meet any deadline the court sets, she said. Two weeks is “valuable” in making sure things continue to move forward, said Mehta, noting the February subpoena. But he sided with Apple when discussing terms for producing certain code words about Apple inventory in the case. Delivering those code words isn’t as easy as DOJ suggested, said Mehta.