Late Wednesday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected Microsoft's argument that the nine US states allied against it have no legal ground to pursue stricter antitrust remedies. Microsoft had argued that the case is a federal one and that the states had no right to impose penalties that could reach beyond their jurisdictions. However, Kollar-Kotelly noted that Microsoft's arguments for dismissal were all based on mischaracterized and selective quotes from previous court cases, while legal precedent clearly backs states' rights to pursue federal antitrust cases on their own, regardless of how the US government responds. Furthermore, the issue is moot, Kollar-Kotelly said, because the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which remanded the case back to the Kollar-Kotelly's federal court last year, ruled that all parties--including the US states--had jurisdictional ties to the case.
"The Court concludes that Microsoft's motion is without merit and must be denied," Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her 35-page ruling. "The Court is loath to presume, as Microsoft does, that the Court of Appeals did not consider the jurisdictional issue of standing."
Kollar-Kotelly's ruling is rife with portentous comments. Microsoft was admonished for "frivolous" and "improper" arguments, many of which reflected a complete and utter disregard for the legal process. Microsoft, she says, repeatedly misunderstood that Judge Jackson's original Findings of Fact and eventual ruling against the company was still legally binding. In effect, the company was proceeding as if the original decision against it never happened. However, only the breakup order and some minor decisions were thrown out later on appeal. Judge Jackson's core decision against the company--and all of his Findings of Fact--still stand, she said, and will form the basis for determining how the company should be punished. This, she says, was established by the US Court of Appeals.
However, the non-settling states and the District of Columbia didn't escape the judge's ire either. Kollar-Kotelly blamed the states' lawyers for committing a number of procedural errors, one of which prevented them from presenting a crucial software demonstration of a modular Windows version.
But overall, Kollar-Kotelly's decision is a huge victory for the states. "Now we can almost see the finish line in this case," said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. Next week, Microsoft and the non-settling states will present final arguments.