By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
WASHINGTON — A federal appellate court set oral arguments in the Microsoft antitrust case for Feb. 26-27, splitting the difference between what the government and the company proposed.
The computer software giant is appealing a District Court ruling that would split it into two separate companies.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also ordered on Wednesday that the company’s first brief be filed by Nov. 27 with the government’s reply due Jan. 12. The company’s rebuttal is due Jan. 29.
Seeking to speed up the case, the government had sought a Nov. 1 deadline for the company’s first brief, completion of all briefs by Dec. 22 and oral arguments in January.
Microsoft had sought a much slower schedule than that. The company had proposed its first brief be due two months after the court set a schedule, which would have been Dec. 11. The company’s proposed schedule had called for final briefs to be filed five months after the order, which would be March 11, with oral arguments later still.
The court limited the company’s first brief to 150 pages, the federal government’s reply to 125 pages and the reply from state governments, which also sued the company, to 25 pages. The company’s final rebuttal was limited to 75 pages.
The court advised the parties that it "does not assume that length necessarily equates with quality."
The government and the company had also battled over brief size, and the court may have split the difference there too.
Microsoft had wanted 56,000 words for its opening brief; the government had proposed 24,000 words. The court’s normal limit is 14,000 words.
Court Clerk Mark Langer could not say Wednesday how many words would fit on a page under the font size and margin limits set by the court. But a legal source, requesting anonymity, said the rules should produce about 250 words per page, which would mean the opening brief would be 37,500 words.
Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said the company was generally pleased with the schedule set by the court.
"This is certainly reasonable," Cullinan said. "We believe this is a fair schedule and we look forward to presenting our arguments to the court."
Justice spokeswoman Chris Watney said, "We’re looking forward to presenting our case to the Court of Appeals."
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