Judge Calls for Settlement Talks in Microsoft Trial
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly today ordered Microsoft and the government into settlement talks and refused to narrow the scope of possible punishments in the antitrust case.
Kollar-Kotelly was polite but firm in her debut hearing on the case, and made it clear that an out-of-court settlement is her preference.
In an order today, Kollar-Kotelly said both sides must "concentrate all of their resources" on settlement talks between now and Nov. 2. It they cant reach a settlement on their own by Oct. 12, Kollar-Kotelly said she will impose a mediator.
"This case should be settled and this is an optimal time to do so," Kollar-Kotelly said. "I expect you to engage in discussions around the clock."
Kollar-Kotelly was chosen to oversee the 3-year-old landmark case against Microsoft after an appeals court in June overturned an order that the company be broken up and removed the original judge, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, for bias.
Kollar-Kotelly was ordered to further review some of the claims against Microsoft and to decide appropriate punishment for one Jackson ruling the appeals court agreed with - that Microsoft acted illegally to protect its Windows monopoly.
During the one-hour procedural hearing, the judge ruled from the bench on Microsofts earlier request to limit consideration of punishments before any evidence had been presented. Microsoft argued that since portions of Jacksons original monopoly ruling were struck down, Kollar-Kotelly should limit the scope of possible remedies to reflect that change.
Kollar-Kotelly strongly disagreed. "The purpose of evidentiary hearings is to inform the court about the contours of a remedy. The court will not rule on the scope of relief in the abstract," she said.
The judge ordered a new schedule for the trial that she said will keep the pace moving as quickly as possible. The Department of Justice will submit its relief proposal on Dec. 7, to be followed by Microsoft on Dec. 12. Hearings in the case will start March 11, unless a settlement is reached. In addition, both sides will conduct evidence discovery Nov. 2 to Feb. 22.
On this point, Microsoft attorney John Warden asked Kollar-Kotelly for three weeks to deliver documents to the DOJ during discovery, instead of the 10 days she ordered, citing the difficulty in serving up subpoenaed material so quickly.
Kollar-Kotelly rejected the proposal, pointing out that there were 28 lawyers present in the courtroom for both sides.
"If you dont want to use these resources, settle the case," Kollar-Kotelly said.
All in all ,the day was a rebuke to Microsoft, said Robert Lande, a University of Baltimore antitrust professor. "She wasnt going to let Microsoft delay things," he said.
After the hearing, neither Warden nor another Microsoft counsel, William Neukom, had any comment.
Charles James, the assistant attorney general for the DOJs Antitrust Division, was upbeat. "We are certainly pleased with the courts determinations," he said.
Connecticut and Iowa Attorneys General Richard Blumenthal and Tom Miller seconded James remarks.