Nine States Urge Judge To Reject Microsoft Delay

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Nine states opposed to a proposed settlement of the Microsoft antitrust case asked a federal judge Monday to reject the company's request for a delay in hearings on alternative sanctions.

Microsoft sought a four-month delay of the hearings earlier this month, saying the states opposed to the settlement plan were seeking a "dramatic expansion" of possible remedies. But the nine dissenting states told U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that Microsoft had plenty of warning they would likely seek broad conduct remedies.

"This motion is little more than a recycling of Microsoft's previously rejected arguments for delay," the non-settling states said in their court filing.

Kollar-Kotelly is expected to rule quickly on the request. Under the current timetable, she plans to have remedy hearings start on March 11. At about the same time, there would be separate hearings into whether the proposed settlement is in the public interest.

The U.S. Justice Department and another nine of the 18 states in the landmark case have agreed to a settlement that would, among other things, require Microsoft to take steps to give computer makers more freedom to feature rival software on their machines.

But the dissenting states say the settlement as currently proposed contains too many loopholes and have proposed tougher sanctions against Microsoft for illegally maintaining its monopoly in personal computer operating systems. Among other things, these states want Kollar-Kotelly to order Microsoft to sell a cheaper, stripped-down version of its Windows operating system.

"That Microsoft stands to benefit from delay is obvious," said the filing from California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts. Minnesota, Utah, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. "It is no surprise that Microsoft would like to continue to delay the proceeding that most threatens to deprive it of the ability to engage in the practices condemned as unlawful by the Court of Appeals."

But Microsoft has said it needs more time to prepare for the remedy hearings.

The schedule "'should be amended in view of the non-settling states' dramatic expansion of the scope of the litigation beyond what the court reasonably could have anticipated threemonths ago," Microsoft said in its motion for a delay.

A delay could be a strategic victory for Microsoft because it would distance the remedy hearing from a separate Tunney Act public interest hearing on the proposed settlement, legal experts say.

An appeals court in June upheld the original trial court's ruling that the company violated antitrust law by illegally maintaining its monopoly in personal computer operating systems.

Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin have agreed to join the settlement announced between Microsoft and the Justice Department in November.

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