Reports: 25 states back ongoing remedy hearings

A group of 24 state attorneys general as well as New York's top cop Friday opposed a request by Microsoft to block nine states and the District of Columbia from continuing their antitrust litigation against the software maker, according to news reports.

Hearings are set to begin Monday to determine whether sanctions should be imposed against the software maker that go beyond what the company has agreed to in a proposed settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and nine other states.

However, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft filed a motion with the court on Feb. 26 asking it to dismiss the additional demands that the nine suing states and the District of Columbia are pursuing. It argued that once the federal government had settled its case, the states should not be able to press the case any further.

Nine suing states -- California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia -- on Friday rebutted Microsoft's motion for dismissal in a 59-page document filed with the court. The states cited their right to continue litigation under the Clayton Act of 1914, which says that a state can sue for injunctive relief if it has been threatened by a violation of antitrust law.

A U.S. District Court Judge ruled in April 2000 that Microsoft violated antitrust law in establishing a monopoly over the market for desktop operating systems, a ruling that was upheld by a federal Court of Appeals.

A second filing was made Friday by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. In it, the state applied for "friend-of-the-court" status, which would allow it to make comments about the lawsuit on the court record.

"Because Microsoft's motion presents a direct challenge to the federal antitrust enforcement authority that New York and other states exercise on behalf of consumers, New York has a significant interest in the outcome of the motion," New York's attorney general said in the filing.

A third filing by 24 states asked for similar friend-of-the-court status, according to a report Friday in the Wall Street Journal's online edition. Included in that list of states were six states that have already agreed to settle the antitrust case as part of the agreement Microsoft inked with the Department of Justice, the Journal reported.

That filing argued that "Congress has granted the states clear authority to proceed independently" of the federal government in antitrust proceedings, according to reports.

Although New York and the other 24 states have joined the battle of words leading up to Monday's remedy hearings, the 25 states did not take a position on the proposed sanctions that the nine suing states and the District of Columbia are seeking.