Microsoft moves to delay litigation proceedings

Following the news that some states involved in the antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. are not willing to settle, the software company on Tuesday morning asked the U.S. District Court to hear these states' complaints as part of another proceeding and to delay the continuation of the case's litigation until that proceeding has concluded.

By doing so, it appears that Microsoft hopes to prevent these states from pursuing continued litigation in the four-year antitrust case by subjecting the settlement objections to a formal court proceeding, or at minimum to delay the continuation of the litigation.

In what's called the Tunney Act proceeding, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly must review the settlement reached by Microsoft, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and some of the 18 states involved in the case before the agreement can become a consent decree. This review, which has not yet been scheduled, is to ensure that the settlement is in the best interest of the public.

Microsoft's filing on Tuesday morning asks that Judge Kollar-Kotelly require the states that oppose the settlement to present their objections during the Tunney Act proceeding, and to let that proceeding run its course before the opposing states continue battling Microsoft in court. This counters a proposal made earlier Tuesday by Brendan Sullivan, an attorney representing all of the states who suggested that litigation begin on a parallel track with the Tunney Act proceeding. "To the extent there are States that refuse to accept the proposed Final Judgement, they should not be permitted to litigate the issue of relief while the Court makes its determination of whether the proposed Final Judgement is in the public interest pursuant to the Tunney Act," read the Microsoft filing.

In defending its position against the states that won't settle, Microsoft's filing looks to the Department of Justice's opinion to support its claims -- a seemingly odd positioning after the company's four years of courtroom battle against the agency.

"There are serious public policy concerns presented if a group of States is permitted to insist upon a different result from the one found to be appropriate by the federal officials empowered to enforce the Sherman Act in a case of national import," the filing reads.

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