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MS guilty – can Prez Bush save it?

If the procedure drags, a new administration may come to the rescue

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MS on Trial Microsoft is making it clear that it wishes to appeal. Whether it will do so immediately against the Conclusions of Law is not yet certain, but there can be little doubt that Microsoft would want to get the case back into the appellate court as soon as possible. Microsoft's hope would be that the Court of Appeals would stay any District Court proceedings pending the hearing of its appeal. One of Microsoft's stratagems must be to delay the case as much as possible, in the hope that George W Bush III becomes President (he is known to oppose the breakup of Microsoft), and appoints an attorney general who will not push for the breakup of Microsoft. Judge Jackson's plan is almost certainly to set a schedule for further briefs and a hearing on remedies, and if he moves at the same speed as for the fact and legal findings, it would be reasonable to suppose that he would make his Order about what should be done around the end of June or in early July. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will persuade the appellate court to put such a procedure on hold. Although Microsoft has made noises about an expedited appeal, the appellate court is not very swift about holding hearings and deciding the matter. It would be reasonable to expect a lapse of up to six months between the launch of an appeal, the preparation of briefs, a hearing, and the decision. If the District Court action were stayed pending the appeal, then Microsoft would make it into the next presidency, with the possibility of a pro-Microsoft  attorney general and a new antitrust chief in place by next January. There is an interesting alternative possibility: the Antitrust Expediting Act makes it possible for the DoJ to seek to have the case appealed directly to the Supreme Court, so by-passing the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Whether this could happen at the present stage is unclear, but it would seem more likely that the District Court would have to finish its work first. When Ronald Reagan became president, he effectively halted the IBM antitrust case that was active. It is of concern to those living under somewhat older and more mature judicial systems that there is in the USA a very real possibility of executive interference with the job of the judiciary, casting doubt on the effectiveness of the separation of powers. It is disturbing that the issue may result being of Microsoft's breakup might well depend on who becomes President. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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