Microsoft, DOJ Get Reprieve on Status Report

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2001-09-13

Microsoft Corp. and the Department of Justice have been given more time to prepare a joint status report on the antitrust case, which was originally due to be filed before the U.S. District Court on Friday.

In an order on Thursday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said that, at the request of both parties, she has extended the filing of the joint status report to next Tuesday, Sept. 18. Kollar-Kotelly was randomly assigned the case last month after the Appeals Court for the District of Columbia returned it to the District Court for further consideration.

The appeals court in late June overturned the order by District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that Microsoft be broken into two companies as a remedy for anti-competitive practices. But it did uphold Jacksons finding that Microsoft held a monopoly in the market for computer operating systems and that it had used that power to engage in anti-competitive business practices that violated U.S. antitrust laws.

In an Aug. 28 order, Kollar-Kotelly ordered Microsoft and the Justice Department to present a joint status report to the court that identifies the specific issues remaining to be resolved by the court. It also must identify the need for specific additional evidentiary hearings; the appropriate measures to help resolve them, including the possible need for new evidence and the presentation of expert testimony; and the proposal of an appropriate schedule for all these matters.

That order was followed by a surprise public announcement last week from the Justice Department and the 18 state attorneys general involved in the case, announcing that they would no longer pursue the breakup of Microsoft or the tying count of the original complaint--essentially whether integrating the Internet Explorer browser to the Windows 95 and 98 operating systems was illegal.

Then, on Monday, Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general for New York, and Bill Lockyer, his Californian counterpart, warned that they would pursue "strong and effective relief that will promote competition and consumer choice in the marketplace."

Spitzer and Lockyer left no doubt that they would be pushing for relief, with or without the Justice Department, and they said the remedy needs to address not just past harm but future behavior--most notably the upcoming Windows XP operating system.

They also made it clear that they would press for additional remedies if they disagree with those sought by the Justice Department.

Microsoft has also petitioned the Supreme Court to review of the case, saying that the bias evidenced by Jackson is sufficient grounds to vacate his entire decision. The high court is not expected to announce whether it will hear the case until it reconvenes from its summer recess on the first Monday in October.

But, at this stage, the attorneys for both Microsoft and the Justice Department are still set to appear in Kollar-Kotellys court on Sept. 21 to begin the new proceedings.

Rocket Fuel