Goverment Lawyers Celebrate Microsoft Ruling

WASHINGTON (04/04/2000) - Federal and state government officials celebrated U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's sweeping antitrust verdict against Microsoft Corp. by crowding into the same tiny room in the bowels of the Justice Department they used last November to gloat over Jackson's damning "findings of fact" in the case.

"Today's ruling makes absolutely clear how important it is to vigorously enforce the law," said U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who was joined at the microphones by her antitrust deputy, Joel Klein, and Iowa attorney general Tom Miller. "Microsoft has been held accountable for its conduct by a court of law." While the mood in the room was buoyant, it didn't match the naked euphoria exhibited by Klein and other government officials last November.

That's because the "findings of fact," which held Microsoft to be a ruthless monopolist that moved quickly to stifle competition in the software industry, broadly telegraphed Jackson's final ruling. "We are of course pleased with the Court's opinion," Klein said. "It will benefit consumers by opening the door to innovation and competition." He added that the government "is committed to finding a remedy that will protect consumers, competition and innovation."

David Boies, the government's lead trial counsel, who was the government's public face and voice at television and radio microphones throughout the trial, was present at the news conference, but said nothing, choosing instead to stand to one side of the room along with senior Justice Department officials and Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal.

Reno, Klein and Miller lavished praise on each other, in a clear attempt to dispel reports that the government camp was rife with disagreement over how to settle the case during the last two weeks of negotiations with Microsoft.

Miller cited Reno's "courage and vision" in bringing the case. Klein thanked Reno for her "tireless leadership and constant support." Miller called Klein a "colleague, friend and partner." Klein called Jackson's ruling "a very strong legal analysis."

He noted that the ruling can be found online, and urged "all Americans to give it their careful attention." Miller moved quickly to squelch questions probing reported disagreements between the states and the Justice Department, saying that "at each crucial stage of the litigation we were on the same page."

Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal rushed to the microphones to declare that "whatever differences we've seen have really been dwarfed by the commonality of purpose. We will be very much on the same page, as far as remedies are concerned, going forward."

Asked about the possibility of a settlement now that Jackson has ruled, Klein held open the door for Microsoft to cut its losses. "The department is always prepared to settle so long as the remedy will deal with the legal violations that have been fully established by the court," Klein said. "On those terms we are glad to engage in settlement."

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