Article 106 of 200
Microsoft scores important point in legal tussle with government
ATTENTION - ADDS comment /// by Nathaniel Harrison
WASHINGTON, June 20 (AFP) - Microsoft scored a key point in its
legal tussle with the government Tuesday when US District Court Judge
Thomas Penfield Jackson suspended an order imposing tough sanctions
on its business conduct.
But Jackson also granted a Justice Department request that
Microsoft's appeal in the landmark antitrust case be sent directly to
the US Supreme Court, bypassing the federal appellate court.
Legal analysts cautioned there was no assurance the high court,
scheduled to recess at the end of the month, would take the case.
They said it was more likely the justices would send the matter back
to the federal appellate court here.
Microsoft is challenging Jackson's conclusion that it committed
antitrust violations and that as a result it should be broken up into
two competing entities and submit to sanctions on its business
The breakup order had already been under a stay. But Jackson in a
surprise move on Tuesday also suspended -- pending appeal -- the
restrictions he had placed on Microsoft's relations with computer
"It's a big win for Microsoft because the staying of the sanctions
is very important to them -- to be able to operate business for the
next year or year and a half without any restrictions," said Nicholas
Economides , professor of economics at New York University's Stern
School of Business.
"It's much more important than anything else."
In addition to ordering a breakup of Microsoft into two companies,
one to develop operating systems and another specializing in software
applications such as Web browsing, Jackson on June 7 called for tough
restrictions on Microsoft's dealings with computer manufacturers.
He ordered Microsoft to reveal much of the software code for its
Windows operating systems, allow computer manufacturers to change the
look of Windows on their PCs and set public pricing guidelines for
The company warned in response that such a move would have a
"devastating" effect on its ability to compete.
"We're obviously very pleased that the court ... decided to stay
the entire judgment in the case pending appeal," said Microsoft
spokesman Mark Murray.
"This is very good news because it means that our appeal can go
forward promptly without unnecessary disruption to consumers or the
high tech industry."
The Justice Department meanwhile took heart at Jackson's decision
to send the appeal to the Supreme Court.
"This decision affirms the Department's position that a quick and
effective remedy is necessary to resolve this significant case,"
Justice said in a statement.
"The sooner a meaningful remedy is in place, the better it will be
for consumers and the marketplace by providing increased innovation,
more choices and better products."
Jackson on Tuesday wrote that immediate consideration by the
Supreme Court "is of general public importance in the administration
A provision of US antitrust law allows appeals to be sent directly
to the high court if such a move is deemed by the trial judge to be
in the public interest and if resolution of the case in question
would likely affect the national economy.
Legal analysts have said the US Circuit Court of Appeals would
probably be friendlier territory for Microsoft, notably as in 1998 it
ruled in favor of the company -- and against the government -- in an
earlier and separate dispute that had also been handled by Jackson.
In a court filing Monday, Microsoft urged Jackson to reject the
government's request for the fast-track approach to the Supreme
Court, a procedure it said would burden the high court with a
complicated, highly technical case requiring review of a wide range
of factual issues.
"There is no justification for tendering a complex case with a
voluminous record and wide range of factual disputes and contested
legal issues directly to the Supreme Court, thus depriving the
Supreme Court of the obvious benefits of intermediate appellate
review," Microsoft insisted.
Economides is among those legal observers who doubt the high court
will agree to hear the full appeal.
"The Supreme Court is geared toward dealing with broader law and
constitutional questions and not dealing with details of the facts,"