Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Microsoft Case; Critics Urge Govt to Drop Suit

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - Arguments over whether to split up the Microsoft company will not be heard by the United States Supreme Court. The high court instead decided, in a near unanimous vote Tuesday, to send the case to a lower court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington.

The Justice Department had wanted the Supreme Court to step into the controversy to speed up the appeal of the verdict issued by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who ruled in June that the giant software company should be split up because it engaged in illegal anti-competitive behavior.

Government lawyers contend that a long appeals process, keeping the case against Microsoft unresolved, "could irreparably harm competition in a vital and rapidly evolving sector of the national economy."

The Supreme Court's 8-1 ruling hands Microsoft a minor victory. The company wants the federal appeals court to overturn Jackson's ruling.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer dissented. "Speed in reaching a final decision may help create legal certainty," Breyer wrote, arguing that the Supreme Court should hear the case now.

Christopher Wysocki, President of the Small Business Survival Committee, said, "it's a good move on the part of the court. The appeals court is best suited to sort out the complex issues that are in the appeal rather than the Supreme Court."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) had no comment on the action, according to a spokesperson. Attorney General Janet Reno had no official comment either.

But a spokesperson for the Department of Justice did. "We look forward to presenting our case to the court of appeals as expeditiously as possible," said Gina Talamona.

"Microsoft is confident in its case on appeal and looks forward to presenting its arguments to the court of appeals," Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said. "We plan on outlining a significant number of legal, factual and procedural errors committed in the district court, which we believe should result in a reversal of the district court judgment."

Josh Mathis, Executive Director of Americans For Technology Leadership, said the government should call off its case against Microsoft.

"This is just one more step in the legal process. I think what it ultimately means is that the writing is on the wall and the government should just drop this darned case. It's cost taxpayers over 30 million dollars to date. It's an awfully, awfully big drain on the economy and the government would better serve consumers and the industry if they just dropped this suit," Mathis said.