US Report: Judge may delay start of Microsoft trial

The judge overseeing the government antitrust case against Microsoft may delay the start of the trial by two weeks, attorneys close to the matter said.

Lawyers for both the software giant and the U.S. Department of Justice asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to push back the date to Sept. 22 to give them more time to take testimony from Microsoft Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Gates and some 16 other Microsoft executives.

The delay is necessary, they told Jackson in a Thursday conference call, because of the extra preparations necessary to accommodate the press and general public at the pretrial depositions. In addition to finding seating for the observers, the two sides must work a way to discuss proprietary matters during questioning without revealing their substance to outsiders.

Lawyers faced with similar problems in courtroom settings often work with lettered exhibits that remain hidden from general view or, at times, ask that observers temporarily leave the room. Jackson Wednesday told the two sides to make space for outsiders at the depositions following a request by The New York Times, the Seattle Times and ZDNet News publisher Ziff Davis that the depositions be opened to the public. The motion was made under the provisions of an obscure 1913 law that requires open depositions when taken for certain federal antitrust cases. Jackson's decision remains on appeal. A ruling on the extension is expected sometime next week.