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The federal judge presiding over an emotional hearing in a case that could set precedent for Internet jurisdiction seemed ready to side with Yahoo Inc. on First Amendment grounds Monday. Lawyers for French groups that won a court order in that country requiring Yahoo to close Nazi memorabilia auctions to French viewers said the U.S. case isn’t ripe and urged U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, of the Northern District of California, to respect the French proceedings. “My clients have members in their groups who are victims of the Holocaust. They are very vulnerable. They have had very bad experiences with the courts and government,” said Ronald Katz, a Coudert Brothers partner. Katz also suggested that there was time for discovery because the court order doesn’t pose any immediate threat to Yahoo’s First Amendment rights. Lawyers for Yahoo, which brought the declaratory relief action in San Jose, Calif., say the First Amendment protects it from a French court order aimed at making what they say are technologically impossible changes to its servers. And they said the threat is very real. “I resent the argument that we’ve misled the court,” said Yahoo attorney Robert Vanderet, a partner in the Los Angeles office of O’Melveny & Myers. “We have an active order directed against Yahoo to comply with the injunction.” Fogel, who took Yahoo’s request for summary judgment under submission, attempted to cool passions during the hearing. “I certainly understand why people on both sides of this case would feel strongly and feel outrage. … If we are going to get outraged and talk about emotions, I will put in my two cents,” Fogel said, before adding that family members had died in the Holocaust. But he assured both sides he would decide the matter on the law, not emotion. “I would encourage counsel to lower the volume and hold back the emotion.” Katz, who wants the judge to hold off on the summary judgment motion and allow further discovery, on Monday asked Fogel to award sanctions against Yahoo, saying the popular Web portal had misrepresented the record with respect to the fines Yahoo may face for not complying with the French order. “There is no case or controversy,” Katz told Fogel. “There is not a shred of evidence that fines are accumulating daily.” “If the fine is one franc or 100,000 francs, the principle would be the same,” responded Vanderet. Fogel asked Katz to explain how allowing for additional discovery could help his clients overcome the First Amendment hurdle identified by Yahoo. Even if discovery showed that Yahoo could easily shut access just to French viewers, Fogel asked, “would that still not be a burden on speech, a chilling of speech under the First Amendment?”

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