GALVESTON, Texas (CN) - Google need not expunge all records regarding a Texas lawyer's disciplinary record, a Texas appeals court ruled Thursday, citing the due process clause.
Calvin Jackson had asked the 405th District Court in Galveston County to expunge all records relation to the Commission for Lawyer Discipline's action against him in 2012.
Google had not been a party to the suit, but the trial court ordered it to remove the records. The Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine giant argued on appeal that the requirement violated its free speech and due process rights, as well as the Communications Decency Act. It also said the proceedings were required to be public, and that the trial court relied on an inapplicable statute.
Citing a lack of jurisdiction, a three-judge panel with the 1st District Court of Appeals reversed Thursday.
"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," the five-page opinion states. "Nothing in the record establishes that Google stands in privity to the Commission or to Jackson."
A judgment is void when "the defects in service are so substantial that the defendant was not afforded due process," Justice Laura Carter Higley wrote for the court.
"Here, there was no identification of Google as a party or attempt to serve it with process," she added. "Accordingly, the judgment against it is void and must be vacated."
Google did not immediately return a request for comment.
The 1st Court's ruling stands in stark contrast to the European Court of Justice's ruling
last month that Google has a responsibility to erase personal information from its search engines for people wanting "the right to be forgotten" on the Internet.
In that suit, a Spanish man sought to remove links referencing a 16-year-old newspaper story about a foreclosure action connected to his Social Security debts. After learning of the search results via Google, the man filed a complaint with the Spanish Data Protection Agency against the newspaper and Google.