Jackson '58 defends decisions

by Katie Walters | 11/21/00 6:00am

His part in the biggest real life version of Monopoly since the U.S. Steel case may be over, but Thomas Penfield Jackson '58 continues to bask in the unaccustomed glare of the public light, most recently named to Vanity's Fair annual Hall of Fame list and profiled in the current issue of the magazine.

Jackson remains somber about the trial and his fame, and continues to stand by his controversial decision in the Microsoft antitrust case. However, he admits that the U.S. Court of Appeals, where the case will soon be reviewed, may reach a different conclusion.

The appellate court "could conclude that, although my procedures were warranted, my determination of the facts was erroneous," Jackson said in an interview with The Dartmouth recently.

"It could also conclude that, even though the facts that I found were correct, the conclusions of law that I drew from those facts were themselves in error," he added.

The case is now out of Jackson's hands, and he looks back on the case as "certainly the most publicized case of my career."

He said that, despite all the attention the trial received and the fact that the proceedings "took up a lot of my time," the case has not dramatically affected his career.

In June, Jackson ruled that Microsoft had violated antitrust law by using its power as a monopoly through its Microsoft Windows operating system to corner other markets, including unjustifiably tying its Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system.

He ordered the break up of Microsoft into two separate companies: one for its Windows operating systems and another for its other applications.

Jackson said that he would have preferred a settlement in the case.

The judge actually tried to send the case directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the lower appellate court, using the obscure Antitrust Expediting Act.

The stature allows a district judge like Jackson to send a case directly to the Supreme Court if he thinks the case is important, and it is in the public's best interest to do so.

The Supreme Court, however, made an 8-1 decision to send the case back to the appeals court.

When questioned about the Supreme Court's decision, Jackson said he was "not really surprised," although he said that he had thought the case was "sufficiently important" to be heard directly by the Supreme Court.

Jackson's decision will be reviewed in detail in the appellate court by a group of seven judges, and it is possible they could decide to send the case back to him.

In October, the court of appeals told Microsoft and the government to file written briefs over the next four months. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin in February.

Some have said that the Microsoft case may lead to new governing processes for antitrust cases.

Jackson agrees, but emphasizes the fact that such a decision is not in his area. He said his purpose was to find out what the facts were and reach a judgement through law.

"Whether or not there will be a new rule will be a matter for others to decide," he said.

Jackson said that he learned a great deal during the case about the software industry. "The lawyers were very good in making sure the witnesses testified so I could follow along."

The Microsoft case is probably far from over, and it is possible changes in the market will affect the outcome.

Economics professor Bruce Sacerdote said that a changing market may reduce the court's willingness to impose a structural remedy on the company.

He said it is possible operating systems may be a natural monopoly, making a breakup of the company unnecessary.