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Antitrust trial goes into slow lane as Court sides largely with MS

So March it is...

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The Court of Appeals has bent a little towards the DoJ in setting the schedule for Microsoft's antitrust appeal, but so little that we can deem it another victory for Microsoft. Spokesman Jim Cullinan, who's spent much of the trial so far denouncing and complaining, was even moved to describe the court's move as "fair and reasonable."

As well he might. The Court has given Microsoft until November 27th to file its initial brief, which is 47 days, rather than the 60 it asked for. The DoJ and the states will file by January 12th, and then Microsoft has until January 29th to reply, and then final briefs come in on February 9th.

The stately progress will continue with oral arguments at the very end of February, which means that just a 48 hour derailment somewhere along the way will take the appeal into March, which was what would have happened if the Court had given Microsoft everything it asked for in terms of a schedule. The appeal is therefore now comfortably and obviously into the next presidential administration, and the schedule close enough to Microsoft's desires for it to be deemed a victory.

The company also got some of its way by being allowed to file bloat above and beyond the volumes normally permitted - but not quite as much bloat as it had asked for. Microsoft wanted briefs limited to 200 pages, the DoJ 100 pages, and the Court (foolishly, we're sure it can't have read Microsoft's previous literary efforts) split the difference at 150 pages.

Another sign that the Court of Appeals may not have been entirely tuned into earlier proceedings is that it urges both sides to take up the number of pages they need, rather than the maximum they've got. The DoJ may try to pull a goodie-two-shoes stunt in response to this, but for the other side, trying to prune meandering, uncomprehending self-justification down to whatever length it really merits would surely be legal suicide.

One upside: the friends of court briefs, produced by the friends of the respective sides who should more properly be referred to as 'bores of court,' will be limited to 25 pages each. They'll no doubt be as dismally dull, ill-informed and deranged as they were in the last phase of the trial, but they'll be over quicker. ®

Related stories:
'They could kick me off the case,' says MS trial judge
MS insists on long appeal, blames DoJ for delays

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