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'They could kick me off the case,' says MS trial judge

And Gates doesn't know a lot about business ethics...

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Microsoft trial judge Thomas Penfield Jackson is accused by Microsoft of judicial misconduct for talking to the press, and it's becoming increasing obvious that this is one hell of an albatross around the good judge's neck. It seems to have become impossible for the press to come within a couple of streets of Jackson without them inducing him to, er, talk to them.

The latest lucky winner is, unusually, the Financial Times, whose reporter cornered Jackson last week after a speech in Maryland, and got some pretty interesting copy from him. Jackson insists what he said after the trial was in accordance with federal codes of conduct, but nevertheless envisages the possibility that Microsoft will succeed in getting him kicked off the case.

He also says he considered breaking Microsoft into three parts, not two, but was talked out of it by the DoJ, which said this was too drastic. And Bill Gates, he reckons, has an inadequate grasp of business ethics.

Jackson's tone seems pessimistic, with some justification. The remedies he imposed in order to tackle Microsoft's abuse of monopoly power are suspended pending appeal, and the DoJ's failure to get the appeal heard directly by the Supreme Court means the appeal will be a long one. Jackson tells the FT that Microsoft's anti-competitive behaviour has continued in the wake of his verdict, and that it's now "well en route to another monopoly."

He's already said: "Virtually everything I did may be vulnerable on appeal" (and had his words turned against him in Microsoft's filings to the appeals court), and he refers back to a previous Microsoft judicial scalp in anticipating the possibility of being kicked off the case.

"They found a way to disqualify Sporkin and they may find a way to disqualify me." This most definitely isn't positive; Judge Stanley Sporkin concluded that the earlier consent decree agreed between Microsoft and the DoJ was toothless, and refused to sign it. He was then kicked off the case by an unholy alliance between Microsoft and the DoJ.

The result was indeed a toothless consent decree which really did say Microsoft could integrate IE into Windows if it wanted to. As Microsoft witnesses at the trial reluctantly conceded, it even meant Microsoft could integrate Office into Windows if it wanted to (these days, that's not a weird idea at all, is it?). The appeals court, where the trial is now, threw out Jackson's preliminary injunction blocking IE-Windows integration, so this is a subject close to the judge's heart. And can he now see the steamroller coming for him, just like it did for Sporkin? ®

Related item:
Full FT story (warning, cookie-fest)

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