DOJ Asks Appeals Court to Not Delay Microsoft Case

The Justice Department on Friday asked a federal appeals court to not delay in pursuing penalties against Microsoft, adding that dragging the case out would disrupt the computer market.

The move comes three days after Microsoft took its antitrust care directly to the Supreme Court, asking it to overturn a previous court ruling that the software giant is an illegal monopoly.

Microsoft sent the petition to the high court two days before the case was to be sent to a new judge to decide what penalty the Redmond, Wash., firm should face.

Lawyers for the Justice Department and states that sued Microsoft for alleged monopoly practices asked the appeals court to deny Microsoft's request to stop legal proceedings in the case while the computer maker waits to hear whether the Supreme Court will step into the case.

The Supreme Court is in recess, and is not likely to consider Microsoft's appeal until October or later.

"Granting a (delay) would further delay the public's remedy and contribute to uncertainty in the market," Assistant Attorney General Charles A. James and other government lawyers wrote in a court filing.

"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 wrote.

Microsoft failed to show why it needed a delay, and going forward would not "injure Microsoft in any way," the government said.

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."

Mixed Ruling

The federal appeals court issued a mixed ruling earlier this summer. It agreed with the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, that Microsoft had broken the law in some areas. But the appeals judges threw out Jackson's ruling breaking Microsoft into two companies, removed the judge from the case and harshly criticized his comments to reporters, in which he compared Microsoft's Bill Gates to Napoleon and the company to a drug-dealing street gang.

The software company was pleased with the order reversing the breakup, but filed its appeal Tuesday addressing the antitrust violations. Microsoft asked the Supreme Court to declare Jackson's 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.

--Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.