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Microsoft should be punished quickly for its monopoly behavior, because delay only further disrupts the computer market, Justice Department lawyers argued Friday. The Bush administration’s top antitrust lawyer asked a federal appeals court not to grant Microsoft’s request for a suspension in court action in the 4-year-old case. Instead, the appeals court should immediately send the case to another judge, who would then decide what punishment the computer software giant should face for breaking antitrust law, the government lawyers wrote in a court filing. “Until that remedy is in place, each day of delay contributes additional injury to the public interest in competition,” Assistant Attorney General Charles A. James wrote. Microsoft wants a delay at least until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to step in. But the government lawyers said Microsoft has little chance of winning an appeal it filed with the Supreme Court earlier this week. The high court is not even likely to hear the case, the government lawyers said. “Under the circumstances, Microsoft has little prospect of obtaining (Supreme Court) review, let alone winning a reversal” of the lower appeals court ruling, the government said. Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said the company still hopes to resolve the case quickly through a settlement with the government. In the meantime, a delay would give the Supreme Court time to act, Desler said. “We’ve asked the Supreme Court to review an important issue, and we believe the process is best served by waiting for the resolution of this matter before proceeding,” Desler said. It was not clear when the appeals judges might act on Microsoft’s request. The appeals court issued a mixed ruling earlier this summer. It agreed with a lower trial judge that Microsoft harmed competition in the computer software market, but rejected the lower judge’s order to break Microsoft into two companies. The appeals court planned to send the case back to a different lower court judge to decide Microsoft’s penalty. That is the portion of the case Microsoft wants to delay. The government said Microsoft failed to show why it needed a delay, and going forward would not “injure Microsoft in any way.” Antitrust lawyers have called Microsoft’s request for a delay a stalling tactic intended to give the company time to roll out a new version of its Windows computer operating system before any judge assigns penalties associated with previous Windows versions. The computer market continues to change, and Microsoft continues to develop new products, while the company remains unpunished for past monopoly behavior, the government lawyers wrote. They noted that Microsoft plans to release a new version of its computer operating system, called Windows XP, this fall. “Because of its monopoly position, Microsoft’s products and conduct overhang the market,” the government filing said. “The sooner remedial proceedings begin, the sooner a resolution can be crafted to assure competitive conditions.” The Justice Department and 19 states claim Microsoft stifled competition among software makers vying to sell computer operating systems for the lucrative personal computer market. Microsoft shouldered competitors aside and harmed consumers by limiting their choices, the government’s antitrust suit said. Microsoft’s Supreme Court appeal deals with the action of the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. In interviews, Jackson offered his colorful take on the case, and likened Microsoft’s Bill Gates to Napoleon and the company to a drug-dealing street gang. Microsoft asked the Supreme Court to declare Jackson’s antitrust findings invalid because of the way the judge conducted himself. Jackson should have been thrown off the case early on, before he issued the monopoly ruling, Microsoft argued. The Supreme Court is in recess, and is not likely to consider Microsoft’s appeal until October or later. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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