Lega Saga Continues

Soon after Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson found Microsoft guilty of anti-trust violations and ruled that it should be broken in two, the company sought to have its appeal heard by the US Court of Appeals. (That Court has been friendly to Microsoft in the past.) But Jackson and the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed that the case should move directly to the Supreme Court.

Then, in October 2000, the Supreme Court announced that it wouldn't hear Microsoft's appeal directly and would instead send the software giant's antitrust case to the Court of Appeals after all. In its decision, the Supreme Court said that the Microsoft case wouldn't directly affect the US economy and therefore didn't need to be fast-tracked. Justice Stephen Breyer disagreed, stating that Microsoft's antitrust case "significantly affects an important sector of the economy." Noting Breyer's dissension, the Supreme Court nevertheless voted 8 to 1 not to hear the case.

Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer tried to downplay the decision, though the company was obviously overjoyed. "I think this is just another step in the process; I don't think too much should be read into it either way," he said. "We're pleased to get this case in front of an appellate body. We are excited to have our chance to present our view of the situation to the appellate court."

Jim Cullinan, a Microsoft spokesperson, said, "Microsoft is confident of our appellate case, and \[we\] look forward to presenting our appeal to the Court of Appeals. The next step in the process is that the parties will hear from the Court of Appeals about how it wants to move the case forward. In the ordinary course, we would expect to receive a briefing schedule from the Court of Appeals." That schedule, which the Court of Appeals approved in mid-October 2000, largely granted Microsoft the extended filing time the company had requested.

Just days before the Supreme Court's decision, the man who handed Microsoft its most damning legal defeat announced he was leaving his post as assistant attorney general of the DOJ's Antitrust Division. As a political appointee, Joel Klein might have been replaced anyway after the November 2000 presidential election, a fact that left analysts wondering about the timing of his retirement. How-ever, Klein refused to comment about his plans. "I have done what I set out to do here, and our work is on the right track," Klein said in a statement. A. Douglas Melamed, Klein's principal deputy assistant, succeeded to the post.

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