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[rr] Remarks on Microsoft Case Mostly Oppose Settlement



>From NY Times: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/08/technology/08SOFT.html?todaysheadlines

Remarks on Microsoft Case Mostly Oppose Settlement

The public - along with a predictable collection of lawyers and lobbyists - 
has delivered its verdict on the government's settlement plan in the 
Microsoft (news/quote) case. Thumbs down, it seems, according to the 
sprawling democratic cacophony found in some 30,000 public comments received 
by the Justice Department.

 In a joint filing by the government and Microsoft in Federal District Court 
in Washington yesterday, the rough tabulation presented was 7,500 comments in 
favor of the settlement announced last November and 15,000 opposed, while the 
rest did not comment directly on the settlement.

 "A significant number of comments," the report said, "contain opinions 
concerning Microsoft, e.g., `I hate Microsoft,' or concerning this antitrust 
case generally, e.g., `This case should never have been brought.' "

 Fewer than 10 percent of the comments - or 2,900 - were deemed by lawyers 
for the Justice Department and Microsoft to be worthy of being "characterized 
as containing a degree of detailed substance."

 Being so selective, the government and corporate lawyers might seem picky or 
snobbish in their classifications. But perhaps not, given that, as the report 
noted, "roughly 2,800 comments are `form' letters or e-mails - essentially 
identical text submitted by different persons."

 Some people had idiosyncratic notions of what was an appropriate response to 
the government's request for comment on a proposed ending to the historic 
antitrust case. "A small number of these submissions," the report said, "are 
simply advertisements or, in at least one case, pornography." No further 
details were supplied.

 The thousands of public comments were collected in 60 days, from Nov. 28 to 
Jan. 28, in accordance with the Tunney Act. The Tunney Act of 1974 was passed 
as sunshine legislation to protect the public interest in antitrust cases. It 
came in reaction to charges that lobbyists had pressed the Nixon 
administration to drop an antitrust case against ITT.

 The government and Microsoft asked that Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly hold a 
one-day hearing on the settlement on March 4. The request for such a brief 
hearing may be wishful thinking, according to legal scholars.

 In addition, the filing yesterday concerned only one track of the 
consideration of the settlement, which includes the Justice Department, 
Microsoft and nine states that concur with the proposed settlement. Under it, 
Microsoft agreed to stop its anticompetitive practices and share technical 
information with industry partners and rivals.

 But nine other states oppose the settlement, saying it is too lenient toward 
Microsoft. Other hearings before Judge Kollar-Kotelly, which could run for 
weeks, are expected to involve the nine states contesting the settlement.

 In any case, the plaintiffs' requests are only requests. The judge has wide 
discretion on hearings and on the form of any settlement she eventually 
approves. Similarly, the public comments, despite their volume, do not 
necessarily have any influence on the judge's ruling.



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