Boston law professor to mediate Microsoft antitrust case

Parties failed to reach settlement by deadline

October 14, 2001|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Eric Green, a Boston University law professor and a specialist in the field of resolving disputes out of court, has been named as the mediator in the Microsoft antitrust case.

The order from Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly was issued late Friday and received by parties in the case yesterday morning. Her order came after Microsoft, the Justice Department and the 18 states who have joined the suit failed to reach a settlement by the Oct. 12 deadline set by Kollar-Kotelly.

Green is a recognized expert in a branch of the law known as alternative dispute resolution, or finding ways to settle legal conflicts outside the courtroom. He is the founder of two Boston alternative dispute resolution firms, JAMS/Endispute Inc. and Resolutions LLC, and has served as a court-appointed special master in asbestos injury cases.

"He is a prominent figure in alternative dispute resolution, he's a very smart guy and his skills are as a mediator rather than in antitrust," said Stephen Houck, a former lead counsel for the state of New York in the Microsoft case, who was a classmate of Green's at Harvard Law School.

At this stage in the Microsoft case, Houck said, having an expert in the process of mediation would probably be more valuable than having an antitrust expert. By now, he said, all sides in the case have gone over the points of antitrust law again and again and fully understand where they disagree.

Green faces a huge challenge. Three previous rounds of settlement talks have broken off without agreement. The most ambitious effort was a four-month negotiation mediated by Richard Posner, a federal appeals court judge and a leading antitrust authority, that collapsed in April 2000.

In her order, Kollar-Kotelly urged Microsoft and the government to "remain steadfast in their efforts to reach a mutually agreeable resolution."

Green could not be reached for comment yesterday.

With Green as a mediator, Microsoft, the Justice Department and the states have until Nov. 2 to reach an out-of-court settlement. If they do not, Kollar-Kotelly will preside over hearings to determine what remedies to order in the case, starting in spring. A federal appeals court in June ruled that Microsoft was a monopolist that had repeatedly violated the nation's antitrust laws, although it did reverse a portion of a lower court decision against Microsoft.

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