Microsoft Asks for Dismissal of States' Case

Microsoft has asked a US District Court to throw out its remaining antitrust lawsuit, which nine US states and the District of Columbia are still pursuing. In a filing late Tuesday, Microsoft said that the case--in which the states are asking for far more damaging remedies than those the company's settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) affords--is "unwarranted by law" and raises "serious constitutional issues." Central to Microsoft's argument is that the states' remedies would punish the company for federal crimes and that the states have no right to impose their opinion on national competition policy.

"Under well-settled legal and constitutional principles, the nonsettling states are limited to seeking redress for state-specific injuries caused by Microsoft's conduct," the Microsoft filing reads. "\[The nonsettling states\] cannot displace the United States in its role of establishing national competition policy. They seek to establish themselves as national antitrust policymakers. \[Their proposal\] effectively would dictate how Microsoft conducts its business in all 50 states. This they cannot do."

However, in 1998 a federal judge consolidated the previously separate antitrust cases from 19 US states and the DOJ, and the states that decided not to sign off on the DOJ settlement in late 2001 have every right to pursue their case. "This \[move\] was expected, and we will resist it strongly," said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, whose state is among those still suing Microsoft. "The Microsoft position would undermine lawful, proper, and practical enforcement of our country's antitrust laws by the states and perhaps by private parties. Our system depends on the strength of shared jurisdictions, and it is firmly based on a century of case law."

The Microsoft filing came less than 2 weeks before the company is set to appear in court with the DOJ to address issues that arose out of the proposed settlement's public-comment period. A week after that appearance, Microsoft is set to begin hearings in which the nonsettling states will press for stricter remedies.

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