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Saturday, November 6, 1999 Published at 10:32 GMT

World: Americas

The judge who frightens Microsoft

Judge's report in high demand

The US federal judge who ruled that Microsoft wields monopoly power in personal computer operating systems is no stranger to the judicial limelight.

District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson first came to America's - and the world's - attention when he sent Washington mayor Marion Barry to jail in 1991 on cocaine charges.

Aged 62, he is an often controversial veteran of the federal court appointed by Republican former President Ronald Reagan in 1982.

The BBC's John Moylan looks back on the trial issues
He is an alumnus of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. Before his appointment as judge, he had been a lawyer in a private practice for 18 years.

He has been equally admired and criticised for his outspokenness. His quick wit and sarcasm sometimes make him shoot from the hip.

Opinionated and controversial

[ image: A setback for Gates]
A setback for Gates
He is opinionated and his opinions are not always appreciated within the legal profession.

His criticism of the jury in the Barry case was hotly debated. Many thought some of his remarks after the case were out of place.

An appellate court criticised him for telling a Harvard symposium that Mr Barry should have been convicted on more counts and that some of the jurors had probably lied.

In 1994 he ordered then Oregon Republican Senator Bob Packwood to make his diaries available to the Senate Ethics Committee.

The committee's investigations into sexual harassment charges against the senator led to his resignation

The Microsoft connection

It was Judge Jackson who issued the preliminary injunction in December 1997 that prohibited Microsoft from forcing computer makers to include the Internet Explorer web browser when they installed Windows 95 on their machines.

He again attracted publicity when he - in a dramatic move - removed the Explorer icon from his computer screen in court to demonstrate that the system worked fine without it.

Before, he had responded to Microsoft's claim that the browser was a necessary part of Windows by claiming that even his clerk could remove it in a matter of seconds.

Colleagues describe Judge Jackson as highly intelligent and a quick learner.

Even computer experts say he has familiarised himself with the basic principles of computing and the key terminology very quickly.

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