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They Own the Courthouse

          The theory has been offered that only Microsoft's two certifiable
  megolamaniacs, Bill Gates and his second in command, could have given the
  regal directive for the corporation to, in effect, ignore the order of the
  trial court (to offer Windows without the browser appendage).  Why?  Because
  'prudent counsel' would never counsel such disdain for the order of a
  federal judge.  I disagree.  I believe it reflects a quite sensible
  strategy, one that will in all probability prevail.
          I've mentioned before that the appeals court involved here (U.S.
  Circuit Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit) is dominated by Reagan appointees
  who've never met a monopoly they didn't like.  During the Ginsburg
  confirmation hearings, for example, I reviewed all of the antitrust
  decisions of that circuit for a 5-year period, some 27 cases, and found none
  that could be considered a victory for the antitrust plaintiff. (See
  Antitrust Law & Economics Review, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 15-26.)  Triumphs for
  the monopolies were the routine fare.  That court, in other words, is
  consistently pro-monopoly--and of course Microsoft's lawyers know it as well
  as I do.  (They're already gotten the trial judge slapped down once here,
  when he tried to put some real teeth in the 1995 consent decree against the
          Microsoft's 'prudent counsel' have already filed their appeal with
  these Reagan judges, asking them to set aside Judge Jackson's OS/browser
  'separation' order--and to do it on an 'expedited' basis.
          A likely scenario, then, goes something like this:  Even if Jackson
  is incensed enough at the flouting of his recent injunction to hold
  Microsoft in contempt, he  won't get a chance to do it or make it stick.
  The appeals court is almost certainly going to find the firm innocent of all
  charges, probably before the lower court has ruled on the contempt
  charge--which means those appellate judges will then set aside the
  underlying injunction.  No injunction, no contempt.  Case closed.  
          Justice could ask the Supreme Court to hear the case but, with 8 of
  the 9 justices being similarly pro-monopoly, that would just get it more bad
          And it could go back to square 1 and file a new antimonopoly case
  against Microsoft, one that would probably take at least a decade to
  litigate--only to crash once more on the pro-monopoly judicial rocks of the
  D.C. Circuit appeals court.
          Cheer for the trust-busters--but put your money on Bill's legal
  team.  They've got an ace in the hole--they own the courthouse.
          Charles Mueller, Editor