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Smoots-Hogan ruled Monday that both sides will be compelled to turn over information.The county, under protective order, must release information to the defense about the Houston Police Department's gang tracker, which helped pinpoint individuals named in the lawsuit.The reasons for judgment of the seven majority judges were drafted by Justice Rosalie Abella. According to the majority, the three criteria set out in the Court’s decision in RJR – Mac Donald Inc. Canada (Attorney General) for the issuance of an injunction against Google were satisfied.
"With all due respect to the court on that particular point, they've already been labeled gang members by virtue of this entire incident," he said, hinting that the next legal phase of this case could be a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the defendants.
While Google did not dispute that Equustek was suffering irreparable harm that it was inadvertently facilitating through its search engine, it submitted three arguments in its defence.
First of all it maintained that as a non-party it should be immune from an injunction.
In a hearing to determine how each side would provide documents to the other in time to prepare for next month's trial, Harris County Civil Court Judge Alexandra Smoots-Hogan suggested that the case – which was initially shielded from the public record – return to more confidentiality to protect the defendants who have been named as suspected gang members from being smeared by that label before a permanent injunction is imposed or denied.
"Either way it shakes out, John Smith is not going to want his name in the public record saying that he is or is not a gang member. Before we just put it out there that John Smith is a gang member, maybe we should protect him just a little bit," the judge said.
Southlawn would be the third "safety zone" created since 2010 in Harris County.