Microsoft case to go to high court by Aug. 22

States, Justice Dept. and software company agree on schedule

Antitrust suit

June 23, 2000|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - In a rare display of agreement, the warring parties in the Microsoft Corp. antitrust case jointly notified the Supreme Court yesterday that they will have the case ready for the justices by late summer.

U.S. Solicitor General Seth P. Waxman, the government's top advocate at the Supreme Court, said Microsoft will file its opening papers July 26. The Justice Department and the states will reply 20 days later, and Microsoft will answer them a week later - completing the schedule by Aug. 22.

If normal schedules had been followed, the case would not have been fully developed until late September.

With the shortened timetable, the case will be ready for the court about six weeks before the justices open a new term in October. Though the court will be in its summer recess, it could act then on the case.

Under the law used to send the Microsoft case directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the usual route through a federal appeals court, the justices do not have to agree to rule on the case; they have the option of sending it to the appeals court for the first look.

Microsoft is expected to urge the Supreme Court to transfer the case to the appeals court. But when it files it initial papers, it will lay out the legal and factual disputes it wants the court to review in the case.

The software giant would prefer the appeals court in the first round of its appeal, because it believes that court will be sympathetic to the company's arguments.

The Justice Department and the 19 states that sued Microsoft believe that the case will move faster if the Supreme Court acts on it first, and they want to avoid a risky trip through the appeals court.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who moved the case to the justices this week, found that Microsoft had repeatedly violated the antitrust laws by misusing its monopoly in the computer software business. He ordered the company broken into two new companies and imposed a series of tight restrictions on how Microsoft can deal with its rivals and business partners in the software industry.

Jackson put his remedy order on hold, however, until all appeals in the case have been decided.

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