In a setback for the software giant, the Supreme Court said Tuesday it will not grant Microsoft Corp. another chance to avoid punishment for antitrust violations associated with its Windows computer software.

The court, without comment, declined to accept an appeal from the computer giant that would have forestalled yet-unspecified penalties. The case is now in the hands of U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

The Supreme Court appeal was a question mark hanging over court-ordered settlement talks. Last month, Kollar-Kotelly ordered round-the-clock talks to try to settle the case. She said she will appoint a mediator on Friday if necessary.

The decision represents a setback for Microsoft, and a victory for the Justice Department and 18 states pursuing claims that Microsoft abused its monopoly power to curb competition and harm consumers.

Microsoft wanted the nation's highest court to determine whether the original federal judge who handled the 78-day Microsoft antitrust trial should be disqualified along with all his conclusions about Microsoft's conduct.

A federal appeals court upbraided U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson earlier this year, threw out his order that Microsoft be broken into two companies and removed him from the case. But the appeals court agreed with Jackson that Microsoft had broken antitrust law, and should be punished.

The court's action does not indicate how the justices view the merits of the Microsoft case, and the court could yet referee part of the long-running court battle.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.