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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 18:59 GMT
Microsoft judge 'not biased'
Kenneth Starr
Kenneth Starr: the former opponent of President Clinton now on Microsoft's trail
US goverment lawyers on Friday defended the judge who ordered the break-up of Microsoft - and gained the support of President Clinton's greatest courtroom opponents for their cause.

The US Justice Department hit back at claims by Microsoft that a court case which ended last June in the firm being ruled guilty of market abuse was "infected with error".

Microsoft has appealed against the decision, claiming presiding judge Thomas Jackson has revealed in interviews since the case that he was biased against the software giant.

"By repeatedly commenting on the merits of the case in the press, the disctrict judge has cast himself in the public eye as a participant in the controversy, thereby compromising the appearance of impartiality," the firm said in an appeal filed in November.

But the Justice Department, which is backed by 19 states, on Friday said Mr Jackson's comments "demonstrate neither bias nor the appearance of bias".

Lewinsky prosecutor

"The remarks cited by Microsoft provide no reason to doubt Judge Jackson's impartiality," the department said in its own brief to the US Court of Appeals on Friday.

District judge Thomas Penfield Jackson
Judge Thomas Jackson: press comments
While appeal court judge may feel it necessary review legal technicalities of the case, Microsoft is not entited to re-argue the facts of the case, the document said.

The lodging of the document came hours after government lawyers heard they had gained the backing of Kenneth Starr, the prosecutor who hounded President Bill Clinton over the Whitewater affair and, later, in the Monica Lewinsky trial.

Mr Starr has been hired by Procomp, a group formed by major Microsoft rival, including AOL Time Warner, Sun Microsystems and Oracle, to support the government in its anti-trust case.

Mr Starr stepped down last year as prosecutor in the Whitewater probe, which concerns a failed land deal in Arkansas.

Friday's 150-page brief from the Justice Department also said Microsoft had "deliberately embarked on a multifaceted campaign of anti-competitive conduct to protect its operating system monopoly".

'Classic case of monopolisation'

Last year's case was brought over claims that, by bundling web access software in with its popular Windows PC operating system, the firm had excluded competitors such as Netscape from the internet browsing market.

The move was a "classic case of monopolisation", the government submission said.

Microsoft, however, has pointed to the formation of AOL Time Warner, in a merger which US regulators cleared on Thursday, as evidence that the software giant is not a monopoly power.

The deal "is simply the latest example of the last three years... of the fierce competition that Microsoft faces in the high-tech industry", Microsoft spokesman Vivek Varma said.

"We continue to believe that Microsoft's decision to integrate browser and operating system will be found to be procompetitive and beneficial to consumers," he said.

See also:

19 Sep 00 | Business
Microsoft prosecutor resigns
07 Jun 00 | Microsoft
The Trial: Key Moments
26 Sep 00 | Business
Time on Microsoft's side
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