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The lawyer chosen to lead the Justice Department division trying to break up Microsoft Corp. got through a Senate nomination hearing Wednesday without having to answer a single question about the lawsuit. Charles A. James, a veteran lawyer with a reputation for conservatism on antitrust matters, has been nominated by President Bush to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division. During his nomination hearing, James did not field a single major question from the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Microsoft case, the biggest antitrust case left over from the Clinton administration. “We’ve all raised it behind the scenes,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah said after the hearing. “We’ve got to let the courts decide that matter.” Critics have suggested that with James at the head of the antitrust division, the department may seek a settlement instead of pushing to break up Microsoft. Hatch said he didn’t see that happening. “I think the administration will allow the Microsoft case to proceed to its final conclusion, which will probably be in the Supreme Court of the United States,” Hatch said. President Bush has not said what course he thinks the government should take, but has said that in general he’s “unsympathetic” to lawsuits. The closest senators came to the Microsoft case was when Hatch asked James if he thought monopoly power was more likely to occur in high tech industries. “It is a fact of life that if someone introduces a new product, if they get there first … they may have a prevailing market position for some period of time,” James said. “But we certainly do not want to discourage the innovative activities that follow.” Lawmakers also praised Assistant Attorney General-nominee Daniel Bryant, who would serve as legislative liaison for the Justice Department. “I think this is one of the better appointments for this administration,” said Rep. Henry Hyde, former House Judiciary Committee chairman. Added Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.: “He is a very honest and able lawyer.” Hatch said he hoped to get a confirmation vote on James, Bryant, Solicitor General-nominee Theodore Olson, and Deputy Attorney General-nominee Larry Thompson as early as today. “It’s important we get those four people down there working,” Hatch said. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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