Microsoft and states still at odds on witness list

The tug-of-war over how many witnesses Microsoft Corp. will be allowed to call in its ongoing antitrust hearings with nine states and the District of Columbia continued Wednesday, as the two sides laid out their disagreement on the matter in a joint status report filed with the court.

Microsoft has said it may call as many as 34 witnesses during remedy hearings that are scheduled to begin March 11 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Among those who may take the stand is Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect, who is among 13 Microsoft employees named on a final witness list submitted to the court this week.

Executives from Compaq Computer Corp., Autodesk Inc. and Oracle Corp., as well as business and legal experts, also have been named as possible Microsoft witnesses.

Nine states and the District of Columbia, which did not sign on to a settlement agreement Microsoft inked with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and nine other states, asked the court Wednesday to limit each side to 20 witnesses, according to the joint status report. The state plaintiffs said they plan to call 16 witnesses during the hearings, including executives from SBC Communications Inc. and the former chief of Netscape Communications Corp., Jim Barksdale.

On Tuesday, the states filed a separate motion to strike 18 witnesses from Microsoft’s list, arguing that the software maker added a number of industry executives as witnesses just hours before its deadline in an attempt to stall the brisk schedule of the hearings. The states said they would not be able to interview those witnesses or collect documents that would be relevant to their testimony in time to meet the Feb. 22 deadline for discovery in the case.

In addition to limiting the number of witnesses each side could call to the stand, the states asked the court to limit each side to 85 hours of court time for examination of all its witnesses – or about one full trial day for each witness. If the court doesn’t limit the number of witnesses each side can call, the states asked that the time limit be extended accordingly.

Microsoft suggested in the joint status report Wednesday that each side should not be limited to a certain number of witnesses and should have 150 hours of court time to examine witnesses.

Both sides did agree on some terms for the trial. For one, all witnesses called to the stand will appear live and not in taped interviews unless each side tells the court otherwise by March 4. In Microsoft’s earlier trial against the DOJ under District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, Gates’ testimony was presented in a taped interview.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at

The state attorneys general can be reached online at

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