The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
Simple rules for litigators: never ask a question if you do not already know the answer, and do not volunteer information that is not requested. Google’s paralegal may have opened a big can of worms in Santa Clara County Small Claims Court earlier this week. Stephanie Milani, a litigation paralegal, found herself in a very uncomfortable position when she represented Google, the defendant in a claim filed by Aaron Greenspan (who also claims he developed the original concept of Facebook as a Harvard student).
Mr. Greenspan sued Google after the company abruptly canceled his site’s AdSense program, stating only that his participation “posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers.” After a prolonged and futile effort to get someone (anyone) from Google to tell him why his site (ThinkLink.com) was blackballed, Mr. Greenspan simply filed suit in small claims court for monies owed in the amount of $721.00.
On March 2, 2009, Google sent a paralegal, Ms. Milani, to defend it at the hearing (attorneys are not allowed in small claims court.) In Mr. Greenspan’s very detailed account at The Huffington Post, Ms. Milani allegedly tried to convince both Mr. Greenspan and the judge that Google can cancel AdSense accounts for “any” or “no” reason (Mr. Greenspan says the relevant clause only says “any” reason, not “no” reason), but admitted in open court that she did not know the reason for cancellation of this account. (To be fair, she says AdSense’s engineers did not give her this information, either.)
After wondering aloud if Google could terminate his account due to the color of his eyes, the judge awarded Mr. Greenspan the total amount of his claim, plus court costs. As the judge handed over the printed verdict, and the plaintiff smiled the sweet smile of victory, Mr. Greenspan says that Ms. Milani protested, “What if everyone whose account was canceled sued Google?” Mr. Greenspan’s suggestion? “Maybe everyone whose account was canceled, should.”