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The federal government has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the court-ordered breakup of Microsoft as having “immense importance to our national economy” — enough importance to hear the company’s appeal immediately instead of deferring to a lower appeals court. The argument came in a filing submitted by the Justice Department on Tuesday in response to Microsoft’s request last month that the nation’s highest court allow the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the case. That appeals panel has ruled in the company’s favor in the past. The government asked the Supreme Court to hear the case directly under a seldom-used provision of antitrust law, the Expediting Act of 1903. The government’s brief states, “The District Court … certified this case for direct review in light of its awareness that a lengthy appeals process could irreparably harm competition in a vital and rapidly evolving sector of the national economy.” The brief continues: “The United States agrees. This Court alone has the authority, and therefore the responsibility, to ensure that the public interest is not harmed and that justice is not denied through delay.” The court could decide this fall whether to grant direct review. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who ruled on June 7 that Microsoft should be broken up for illegally maintaining a monopoly over its operating-system software as well as other antitrust violations, invoked the Expediting Act. The act allows the federal government to request Supreme Court review of antitrust cases of national importance. Last month, Microsoft asked the Supreme Court to allow the case to progress through the lower court first. The software giant argued that the case involves the “onerous task of sifting through a large and complex record.” Microsoft attorneys also detailed a number of “errors” they expect to argue on appeal — errors they say Jackson committed, ranging from his conclusion that Microsoft violated antitrust laws to his discussions with reporters. The government, which filed the case two years ago along with 19 states, argued Tuesday that the company “overstates the complexity of the case.” The government argues that the Supreme Court would have to examine only five separate areas if it hears the review directly. Those five inquiries, according to the government, include whether the district court properly applied antitrust law on the issues of monopoly maintenance, attempted monopoly and tying products together. In addition, the government argues, the court would have to determine whether Jackson abused his direction in expediting the trial, admitting evidence and selecting the breakup remedy. Microsoft can file a reply on Aug. 22. “We continue to believe that the Supreme Court would benefit from an initial review of this very complex and technical appeal by the Court of Appeals,” the company said in a release Tuesday. “We look forward to responding more fully in our filing next week.” The appeals court has already indicated its interest in the case, announcing in June that its full bench would consider the matter rather than the customary three-judge panel. Related articles from The Industry Standard Microsoft Asks High Court to Pass Case to Lower Court Right Back at Ya Microsoft’s Legal Team Bulks Up Copyright (c)2000 The Industry Standard

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