Microsoft Legal Counsel Upbeat on Overcominmg Intuit Challenge

Article excerpt

Jim Erickson

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

SEATTLE _ William Neukom, Microsoft's chief legal counsel, was upbeat Thursday about his chances for overcoming the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust objections to Microsoft's proposed $2 billion acquisition of Intuit Inc., now that the case is before "an objective government entity" _ a U.S. District Court.

That statement might seem curious in light of the company's recent experience before U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin, a maverick jurist who in voiding an antitrust settlement between Microsoft and the Justice Department all but accused Microsoft of monopolistic practices.

Attorneys for the Redmond software giant at one point even threatened to try to get Sporkin thrown off the case.

New trial, different judge.

The Justice Department's lawsuit to block the Microsoft-Intuit merger will be heard by William Orrick Jr. Orrick has a reputation as a legal stickler with a short fuse, who runs his courtroom quickly, efficiently and by the book.

"He is very even-handed in yelling at everyone," according to an attorney interviewed for the 1995 Almanac of the Federal Judiciary.

Orrick, a federal judge for the Northern District of California in San Francisco since 1974, worked as an assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's antitrust division during the Johnson administration.

But he is reputed to hold no biases, and has frequently ruled against the government.

In a civil antitrust case over Data General Corp.'s marketing of computer equipment and software, Orrick in 1981 overturned a jury verdict that the company's economic power in the market for operating systems software was so great that it could restrain competition in another market. …