Judge Seeks 'Fast Track' in Microsoft Case

WASHINGTON (04/05/2000) - Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson says he intends to put the remedy phase of the Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial on a "fast track" and may push to move the case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"My . . . objective is to get this thing before an appellate tribunal one (way) or another, as quickly as possible, because I don't want to disrupt the economy or waste anymore of your or my time on a remedy," Jackson said in a meeting yesterday with attorneys from both sides.

Jackson said he wants to complete the remedy phase, which may include hearings with witnesses, in 60 days. He planned to meet again with attorneys late this morning to finalize a scheduling order.

On Monday, Jackson ruled that Microsoft violated antitrust law to maintain its monopoly on the PC operating system. Jackson said Microsoft's anticompetitive and predatory actions had hurt competition and innovation in the software industry (see story).

Jackson must now decide what remedies to impose in this case. He asked the attorneys to provide him with their last best offers made during the mediation talks. But there was some balking.

John Warden, Microsoft's chief trial attorney, warned that public release of the company's mediation offer "went a whole lot farther than we think any litigated remedy that could be justified," according to a transcript of the meeting. He worried that Microsoft's offer, once released to the public, "would be picked apart ad nauseum."

"What I am interested in doing is finding out where each of you is coming from . . . or have come from," said Jackson, who said he might keep mediation offers under "seal," or out of the public eye.

Jackson also said he would invite the government to seek an expedited appeal and move the case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. But attorneys from both sides expressed doubt that would be possible.

Meanwhile, corporate end users continue to mull over the verdict and remedy options.

"I could actually see where breaking up the company would help," said Michael Embry, manager of business intelligence systems at AutoZone Inc. in Memphis.

"If it opened up the possibility for other innovations from other companies, I think that would be a good thing."

Andy Martin, chief technical officer of Garden.com Inc. in Austin, Texas, agreed with the court verdict and said Microsoft has "abused their power for a long time."

"If they break the company up, there is a real good chance (Microsoft) will get some competition back," said Martin.

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