Judge extends Microsoft-DOJ deadline

Summary:Agreeing to a request from the government and Microsoft, Judge Kollar-Kotelly moves the deadline for a joint status report that is key to the next phase of the antitrust case.

WASHINGTON--A federal judge on Thursday extended the deadline for a joint status report that Microsoft and the government have been drafting for the next phase of the landmark antitrust trial.

The software giant, Justice Department and 18 states had been expected to deliver the document on Friday, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly extended the deadline to 12 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

The government and Microsoft requested the extension in a filing late Wednesday.

Kollar-Kotelly extended the deadline "for good cause shown," according to her order. Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler did not disclose the reason the company and government requested the delay, but this week's terrorist attacks here and in New York may have been a factor. Washington literally shut down Tuesday, sending many government workers home.

The delay puts unexpected pressure on all the parties, but especially Kollar-Kotelly. The judge is scheduled to meet Microsoft and government lawyers on Sept. 21 in a hearing that could set the pace for proceedings.

"That makes sense. People are still too stunned to work efficiently or think clearly," said Bob Lande, an antitrust professor with University of Baltimore School of Law.

Desler said that Microsoft's "understanding is that the joint status conference remains scheduled for Sept. 21."

That means the judge will have three days, instead of a week, to prepare for the meeting after receiving the status report.

"Unless they move that deadline, it will put a little more pressure on the judge to determine the schedule quickly," Lande said.

As the case returns to trial court, Microsoft has tried to return the focus to the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the Redmond, Wash.-based company slammed a government brief urging the Supreme Court to reject the company's request for appeal.

Microsoft wants the nation's highest court to throw out U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's two-part ruling upheld by seven appellate judges in June. Microsoft contends Jackson's out-of-court comments to the media before he drafted the ruling warrants Supreme Court review.

In the meantime, proceedings before Kollar-Kotelly are expected to move forward, with the government preparing to ask for additional discovery about Microsoft technologies and business practices since the trial ended last year before Jackson. The Court of Appeals later threw out Jackson's break-up remedy and removed him from the case for his out-of-court comments.

Kollar-Kotelly picked up the landmark case in a random ballot last month. The judge's main task will be drafting a new remedy to deal with the eight separate antitrust violations upheld by the Court of Appeals.

Among those violations:

•  Exclusive deals with PC makers to carry Microsoft products.

•  Overriding people's choice to use Netscape Navigator.

•  Intermingling of Windows and browser code so that Internet Explorer could not be deleted.

•  Deals with 14 out of the top 15 Internet service providers for exclusive promotion of Internet Explorer.

•  Exclusive contracts with some developers to create software that would make Internet Explorer the default browser.

•  Making Internet Explorer the exclusive browser for Apple Computer, in part by threatening to end Office development for the Mac.

•  Deceiving Java developers into believing Microsoft's Java was cross-platform when it was not.

•  Compelling Intel to abandon its own version of cross-platform Java.

Still, the government is expected to expand the case beyond the original ruling as it probes Windows XP, Passport authentication and Microsoft's forthcoming .Net software-as-a-service strategy.

"They can do that because the goal of an antitrust remedy is to restore competition, so it can be forward-looking," said Emmett Stanton, an antitrust attorney with Fenwick and West in Palo Alto, Calif.

Topics: Software

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