Government Urges Supreme Court Review

SAN MATEO (08/15/2000) - The federal government urged the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Microsoft Corp. antitrust appeal immediately, instead of sending the case to an appellate court.

"This court alone has the authority, and therefore the responsibility, to ensure that the public interest is not harmed and that justice is not denied through delay," the U.S. Department of Justice said in a filing with the Supreme Court.

If the case goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals, it may not be decided for at least a year, the Justice Department argued. However, if the Supreme Court takes it directly, the antitrust case could be wrapped up by the end of the high court's 2000 term.

Last month, Microsoft asked the Supreme Court to give the case to the appeals court, which has sided with the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant in the past. Company officials have maintained, however, that Microsoft has a strong case in appealing both U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling that the company violated federal antitrust laws and a subsequent remedy ruling that the company be broken in two and forced to adhere to a strict set of business regulations.

"We continue to believe that the Supreme Court would benefit from an initial review of this very complex and technical appeal by the Court of Appeals," Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said in a statement issued shortly after the Justice Department's filing. "We look forward to responding more fully in our filing next week."

The Supreme Court could take the appeal directly by exercising the little-used Expedition Act, which can apply to cases of "general public importance." The Microsoft case -- which will have a major impact on business in general and the high-tech industry in particular -- fits that bill, the government argued.

"The district court, which commendably expedited the trial proceedings, certified this case for direct review in light of its awareness that a lengthy appeals process could irreparably harm competition in a vital and rapidly growing evolving sector of the national economy," the government stated in its petition, which can be viewed at www.usdoj.gov/atr/cases/f6100/6198.pdf.

Jackson's remedies have been stayed pending the outcome of the appeal.

Bob Trott is an editor at large at InfoWorld.

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