The status conference between the government and Microsoft Corp. that was scheduled to be held before District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on Nov. 5 has been moved to Nov. 2 due to a scheduling conflict with the governments legal counsel.
In a court order issued late Tuesday and following a telephone conference with the parties, Kollar-Kotelly also confirmed that evidentiary hearings around the appropriate remedy for Microsofts illegal anti-competitive behavior in the desktop browser market will start on March 11, 2002, at 9 a.m. if a negotiated settlement is not reached before that date.
Kollar-Kotelly told Microsoft and the Department of Justice last Friday that they had just two weeks, until Oct. 12, to reach a negotiated settlement on the antitrust case by themselves; otherwise she will appoint an external mediator.
She also ordered the parties to engage in settlement talks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While Microsoft and the government have indicated that they do not want a mediator appointed, "it has been three months since the appellate court rendered its decision with no resolution reached by the parties," Kollar-Kotelly said.
"The Court will give the parties until October 12, 2001, to settle the cases on their own. However, if at the end of that time, they have not been fully successful, the parties shall submit to Chambers, on October 12, 2001, the name of an agreed-upon individual to act as facilitator/mediator to assist the parties in their efforts. If the parties cannot agree upon an individual, then the Court will appoint such an individual to act as their facilitator/mediator," Kollar-Kotelly said.
If that happens, it will not be the first time the case has been refereed to a mediator. In November 1999, District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who was hearing the case, proposed a process mediated by Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Richard Posner.
The process was unsuccessful and, in April 2000, Posner announced that he had "endeavored to find common ground that might enable the parties to settle their differences without further litigation. Unfortunately, the quest has proved fruitless."
But settlement talks and mediation notwithstanding, Kollar-Kotelly has kept up the pace of the case, setting a schedule to keep the trial moving quickly. She said briefs will be due in December and the hearing will start March 11, 2002, if a settlement has not reached.
Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said this week that the company remains interested in and open to the settlement process as a way of quickly resolving these issues. "Were going to comply with the court order and will be working very intensely and in very good faith with the government over the next few weeks, and well see where we are on Oct. 12. All parties have previously said we would prefer to avoid mediation, and that still applies," he said.