Judge Sets Date For Microsoft Settlement Hearing

A hearing on the proposed settlement of the Microsoft antitrust case will be held in March, but the judge hasn't yet agreed to limit the scope of the proceedings as requested by Microsoft and the government.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said today that she will hold a hearing as part of her review of the landmark Microsoft Corp./U.S. Department of Justice antitrust settlement proposal before she begins hearing a parallel case for tougher remedies brought by nine states that rejected the settlement deal.

The judge said that the structure of the settlement hearing, which was requested by Microsoft and the Justice Department, remains open.

The hearing in the settlement review, known as the Tunney Act process, will be held the week of March 4, but Kollar-Kotelly said had not yet decided whether an evidentiary hearing would also be necessary. She noted that this review differs from typical Tunney Act reviews because it builds on an established set of liability findings from an appellate court.

In a joint report filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia yesterday, Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., and the Justice Department asked that the settlement hearing last one day and be limited to oral arguments from themselves and the nine states that agreed to the settlement. Further hearing participation from parties opposing the settlement – and all third parties – "is unwarranted and unnecessary," they said.

Under the current schedule, the scope of public comment weighed the first week in March will be limited because the comments considered earliest and most often will be 45 filings selected by the Justice Department as "major." The department, which received a total of 30,000 comments, said it would not be practical to make all comments available before Feb. 27, but it would make the 45 "major" filings available. The department categorized approximately 2,900 comments as "substantive." Eventually, all comments related to the settlement case will be made available to the public, via the web or CD-ROM.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, in a filing with the court today, said that the hearing schedule and format proposed by the settlement parties would preclude anything more than a rubber stamp for the deal. More than one weeks time is needed to review the public comments before a hearing, and third parties should be allowed to participate in the hearing, the Washington trade group said.