Judge Sends Microsoft Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

In another defeat for Microsoft, the federal judge who found the software giant in violation of federal antitrust laws and ordered a breakup of the company has sent its appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson on Tuesday agreed with the petition filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which argued that the case should fall under the seldom used Expediting Act. The statute fast-tracks cases deemed vital to the national interest to the high court, bypassing the intermediate appellate court.

Microsoft has been maneuvering furiously to have its appeal heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ruled twice in its favor in earlier lawsuits. DOJ lawyers have been maneuvering just as hard to forgo the normal appeals process and have the Supreme Court hear the case.

“This decision affirms the department’s position that a quick and effective remedy is necessary to resolve this significant case,” the DOJ said.

The DOJ also said that the case should go directly to the Supreme Court under the Expediting Act “because of its importance to the American economy and all consumers.”

Wins, Losses for Microsoft

Earlier in the day, the judge granted Microsoft’s motion to stay the harsh business restrictions he had imposed against the company that were due to go into effect September 5th. The motion to stay had been placed on the appellate court calendar, but due to Tuesday’s rulings, the appellate court is expected to bow out of the case pending action by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Government attorneys could claim victory in the trial judge’s ruling on the motion to stay as well, because it removed a troublesome deadline that might have convinced the Supreme Court to reject the case. If the high court believed it did not have time to properly review the case because of the September deadline, it might have sent the case back to the appellate court.

Microsoft was pleased the appellate court, which previously agreed to hear the case, laid out a schedule that called for a quick resolution of the motion for stay. But the appellate court also indicated Monday that if the trial court decided to certify the case to the Supreme Court, it would step aside.

High Court to Break

Microsoft officials said they are glad the restrictions on company business practices have been temporarily lifted, but are disappointed in Jackson’s decision to certify the case for Supreme Court appeal.

“We believe that the facts and the law are on our side regardless of which court reviews this case,” the company said. “But, given the numerous factual and procedural and legal errors we will be citing in our appeal, this is clearly a case that would benefit from the full appeals process.”

The Supreme Court has the option of agreeing to hear the case or sending it back to the appellate level. The high court is scheduled to begin a four-month break on June 29th, which will leave the appeal in limbo until the high court is in session again in October.

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