The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a brief with a federal appeals court today urging it to deny Microsoft Corp.'s request to dismiss a court-appointed adviser in the antitrust case against the software vendor, arguing that the outside expert is needed to ensure a speedy resolution to the case.
Microsoft is appealing a lower court ruling to retain Harvard University law professor Lawrence Lessig as "special master," claiming he is biased against the software firm and that he was appointed without Microsoft's consent. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has asked Lessig to review the technical and legal issues in the case and report back to it by May 31 with tentative findings.
The DOJ argued in its filing that the lower court was within its authority to appoint a non-judicial officer possessing special expertise to the case and that the court alone, not the outside expert, will make final determinations in the case.
"Through his ongoing proceedings and proposed findings, Professor Lessig will then focus the issues, economize the range of specialized knowledge the court must assimilate to resolve the dispute, and thereby facilitate the court's swifter resolution of it," the 12-page DOJ brief said.
The DOJ originally asked the lower court late last year to find Microsoft in contempt for violating a 1995 antitrust consent decree prohibiting it from tying the licensing of its operating system to another software product. The court ordered Microsoft to allow PC makers to license its Windows 95 O/S without requiring them to pre-install the company's Internet Explorer Web browser.
Last week, the DOJ and Microsoft reached a compromise agreement whereby Microsoft would offer PC makers the option of licensing Windows 95 with the Internet Explorer browser icon removed. But Microsoft is still appealing the court's order, arguing that the browser is not a separate product, but an integral part of the overall operating system.
Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or on the World Wide Web at http://www.microsoft.com/.