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News Briefs II

U.S. Lawyer Chides Microsoft's Ads on Antitrust Case

Los Angeles Times

The government's top lawyer in its antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. criticized the software giant on Monday for buying newspaper ads that attempted to undermine the government's case.

The advertisements, which filled nearly a full page in the Wall Street Journal and four other newspapers, continue a bid by Microsoft to try to capitalize on the purchase of Microsoft rival Netscape Communications Inc. by America Online Inc. for $4.2 billion, a deal that Microsoft argues proves that the software industry remains highly competitive.

But lead government lawyer David Boies criticized the ads for focusing on competitive technology markets and ignoring issues pertinent to Microsoft's antitrust case. Those issues, he said, center on whether Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system is being used illegally to snuff out competition in Internet software and other emerging information technology markets.

"I looked in vain [in the ads] for any mention of the PC operating system, which is what this case is all about," Boies said.

Entitled "The March of the Marketplace," the ad says the AOL deal demonstrates that "the marketplace is brimming with innovations that move many times faster than government intervention ever could." Such developments, Microsoft added, are "good for consumers - and it's good for us, because it keeps us on our toes. We think winners ought to be decided by you - the consumers in the marketplace - not by armies of lawyers in the courtroom."

High Court May Pass Ruling on Political' Census Dispute

Los Angeles Times

Someone has to decide, and soon, how the next census will be conducted, but the justices of the Supreme Court hinted Monday the decision is not theirs to make.

"This is a political dispute, and you want us to resolve it," Justice Antonin Scalia told a lawyer for the House Republicans, who went to court earlier this year to challenge the Clinton administration's plan to use statistical sampling in the next census.

Though the Republicans won in two lower courts, the high court justices - including the most conservative of them - said Monday they are wary of using lawsuits to decide abstract or inherently political questions.

"I don't like injecting us into a battle between the political branches," Scalia said during Monday's oral argument.

Justice Anthony Kennedy agreed, commenting it "destroys all discipline" in the political system if the losing side can go to court to reverse the outcome.

The comments and questions Monday put in doubt whether the court will rule squarely on the census sampling issue. The sampling plan calls for enumerators to revisit about one percent of the nation's population after census takers have made an initial count.

If the justices throw out the lawsuits challenging the administration's sampling plan, the matter will go back to Capitol Hill. There, the Republicans could refuse to fund the census next year if it includes sampling.