Judge Jackson Exits Microsoft Discrimination Case

The federal judge who found Microsoft guilty of sweeping antitrust violations has recused himself from another case involving the software giant, largely because of an appearance of bias against the company that Microsoft raised during the antitrust trial's appellate phase. But Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson didn't go quietly: Once again, he attacked Microsoft for the company's conduct during the antitrust trial, specifically accusing company executives of providing false and misleading information.

In an order issued late yesterday, Jackson said that Microsoft's conduct caused any "perceived bias" against the company. Microsoft executives, he said, "proved, time and time again, to be inaccurate, misleading, evasive, and transparently false . . . Microsoft is a company with an institutional disdain for both the truth and for rules of law that lesser entities must respect. It is also a company whose senior management is not averse to offering specious testimony to support spurious defenses to claims of its wrongdoing."

The inflammatory comments are interesting, given the verbal slap-down the US Court of Appeals gave Jackson for his public disdain of Microsoft. But Jackson said that his comments created the appearance of bias only when "viewed in light of the public disapproval" of the appellate court judges. In other words, if the appellate judges hadn't independently raised the bias issue, no one would have thought Jackson was biased against Microsoft. Jackson and the US Court of Appeals have often found themselves on opposite ends of the Microsoft debate.

Perhaps emboldened by its brightening prospects on appeal, Microsoft responded to Jackson's comments. "We respectfully disagree," a company spokesperson said, "but these issues are before the court of appeals, so it would be inappropriate for us to comment \[further\]." The case that Jackson recused himself from involves a $5 billion racial-discrimination suit against Microsoft. The case now will be randomly assigned to another district court judge.

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