Judge Jackson Sharpens His Scissors

BOSTON (05/26/2000) - Suggested: Judge shuts down Microsoft plans for remedy hearings. Break-up order may arrive this weekThere is little doubt that Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial judge Thomas Penfield Jackson intends to break up the company. The only remaining question:

How many pieces?

Jackson's remedy could be issued this week, triggering an appeals process that will last one to two years, legal experts said. The government, in a revised brief filed Friday, didn't change its recommendation that Microsoft be split in two.

In a hearing on remedies last week, Jackson focused his attention on the breakup options.

He seemed to favor a proposal to split Microsoft three ways by also turning its browser business into a separate company. Two trade groups, the Computer & Communications Industry Association and the Software and Information Industry Association, prepared the brief. The government wants to split the applications and operating system into two businesses.

Jackson also dismissed Microsoft's plan to hold an extensive series of hearings on remedies. The company had assembled a list of 16 witnesses, including Bill Gates.

Microsoft attorneys were stunned but remained confident of their appeal odds.

"We have several rounds to go," said William H. Neukom, Microsoft's vice president for legal affairs.

Once the remedy is issued, Jackson's immediate role ends. But an appellate court can send the case back to him, said Rich Gray, an antitrust attorney in Menlo Park, California.

But "Judge Jackson is making it clear that he's lost his patience with Microsoft's requests to prolong the proceedings," said Hillard Sterling, an attorney at Gordon & Glickson PC in Chicago.

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