Judge Jackson Isn’t Buying It

Shades of Stanley Sporkin.

He comes to mind in the wake of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s actions today in a Washington courtroom, where Jackson — who replaced Sporkin as the judge overseeing Microsoft antitrust matters — all but said he was leaning toward a much more thorough breakup of Microsoft than the one proposed by the government. Jackson asked for a revised breakup proposal (AP), and indicated he’s thinking more along the lines of a three-way breakup than splitting the company into the two pieces advocated by the government.

Now let’s go back to 1994-5, when Judge Sporkin, presented with a consent decree agreed to by the Justice Department and Microsoft, said it was too soft on the company. Sporkin was ultimately overruled by an appeals court and thrown off the case.

Acknowledged, it isn’t the same thing now. Jackson has presided over a long trial. He’s basing his rulings on a huge factual record. He clearly has the authority to impose whatever remedies he feels necessary and legal. But his preemptory refusal to give Microsoft more time to make a case against a breakup, plus his latest, hurry-up demand for a revised breakup plan, are getting too close to judicial fiat for my taste. I wonder if he’s inviting the appeals panel to overrule him, too.

I’ll have more in special column here later.

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