MS/DOJ – New judge urges settlement

Confident that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Microsoft Corp. can come to a fair agreement, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly Friday ordered the two sides in the antitrust case to enter into “intense settlement discussions” between now and Nov. 2.

During a status conference at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Kollar-Kotelly said she expects the sides to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and to be reasonable, in order to come to an agreement that satisfies both parties. If no settlement is in view by Oct. 12, the two parties are ordered to submit to the court the name of a mediator to assist them, or the court will appoint one if an individual cannot be agreed upon, the judge said.

If the two sides still cannot come to agreement by Nov. 2, the judge proposed a schedule for continuing with the remedy phase of this case. Kollar-Kotelly is charged with deciding what remedies should be applied to Microsoft to break its monopoly grip on the operating system market.

The schedule dictates that the DOJ must enter its remedy suggestions by Dec. 7, with Microsoft taking those into account and entering its own by Dec. 12. The hearing regarding remedies would begin on or around March 11, 2002, said Kollar-Kotelly, who added that the specific date will not be set until the schedule for another trial she is overseeing is worked out. The discovery process, where each side reveals to the other facts and documents relevant to their arguments, would run from Nov. 2 until Feb. 22, giving the sides a 16-week period.

The judge also responded to a joint status report that the two sides filed on Sept. 20. She instructed the DOJ to be more specific than stating it is seeking relief based on the remedies that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson suggested in an earlier phase of the case.

Kollar-Kotelly denied Microsoft’s request that the court set the scope of the remedies before any related hearings are scheduled. An evidentiary hearing must be held in order to explore the facts of the case, Kollar-Kotelly said, before the court can outline the scope of the remedies. It would also be inappropriate for her to outline provisions when the DOJ hasn’t yet specified remedies it plans to seek, she added.

(Matt Berger in San Francisco contributed to this report.)

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