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Here Comes the Judge: Jackson Delays Microsoft Antitrust Decision

Aired June 1, 2000 - 2:40 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: In Washington, a federal judge today delayed his final order in the landmark Microsoft antitrust case. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson asked the company and the Justice Department to make additional arguments.

And that means the ruling, which had been expected as early as today, won't come for at least another week. Judge Jackson could decide to carve Microsoft into two or perhaps three new companies.

Now, he's moved this case, which is a complex case, along with unusual speed, ruling the company violated antitrust laws just eight weeks ago after a trial that lasted just 78 days.

And that haste, say analysts, may help the company in the appeals process.

CNN's Steve Young has more on the man and his plan for Microsoft.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVE YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The man who branded Microsoft a predatory monopolist is the same judge who called the acquittal of former Washington Mayor Marion Barry on drug charges "a jury screw up."

In "Washingtonian" magazine, he was ranked by dozens of attorneys as the worst in the U.S. District Court, described by the magazine as "mean and tyrannical."

But he should have been right up Microsoft's alley: appointed by President Reagan; one-time Republican Party official; conservative.

ERNEST GELHORN, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: Those factors might all have suggested that he would have been predisposed toward Microsoft. Indeed, I think he was. I think Microsoft, by its actions in the trial, and the evidence that was presented, persuaded the judge that these were malefactors.

YOUNG: Thomas Penfield Jackson is a Navy veteran, and from behind the bench he ran a tight ship.

WILLIAM KOVACIC, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: I think, in most respects, Judge Jackson has done a masterful job of structuring and managing the litigation.

YOUNG: Particularly considering how judges have tripped over themselves in past antitrust cases; the IBM case dragged on for a decade and was dropped.

In contrast, Judge Jackson has a conclusion in this case less than two years after the trial began.

KOVACIC: The perspective of most antitrust observers before the Microsoft case began is that the big monopolization case was a swamp into which the plaintiffs' theories went and never emerged again. It was a place where the government's theories went to die.

YOUNG: The standoff between the judge and the icon was the luck of the draw. Federal district judges are assigned both civil and criminal cases on a random basis.

Five years ago, the "Legal Times" newspaper called Jackson, a Harvard law grad, one of the slowest decision makers in Washington. But at 63, Jackson now moves at Internet speed.

Antitrust experts say Jackson has revived the possibility that judges can actually handle huge antitrust cases in a reasonably short amount of time. The experts say he gets an "A" on structuring and managing the litigation, balancing the need for speed, depth, and analysis.

But:

GELHORN: Then we get the issue of remedy and the apparent haste to judgment by the court, and that I think is very vulnerable and I think somewhat mistaken and questionable.

YOUNG: In that remedy, or penalty phase, Judge Jackson decided not to hear more testimony from Microsoft witnesses.

KOVACIC: I think when we compare that approach to what has constituted best practices from past monopolization cases, we'll see that he has taken a dangerous shortcut.

YOUNG: Whichever court hears the appeal could bounce the remedy back to the judge, or conclude he shortcutted procedure and cast aside the boldest remedy of all: a breakup.

(on camera): The Department of Justice may be betting on the odds. Judge Jackson's decisions have been reversed no more than other federal judges, according to "Legal Times"; still, that's 18 percent of his cases.

Steve Young, CNN Financial News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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