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Microsoft rivals hire Ken Starr

An industry trade group representing rivals of Microsoft hires former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr to help support the government in the antitrust case against the software giant.

WASHINGTON--Microsoft adversaries have rallied big guns for a "friend of court" legal filing.

The Project to Promote Competition & Innovation in the Digital Age (ProComp), a high-tech trade group whose members include Oracle and Sun Microsystems, drafted former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr to help craft a legal brief to be filed on the government's behalf.

Starr joins Robert Bork and Walter Dellinger, all former solicitors general, supporting ProComp's brief.

ProComp President Mike Pettit explained why the trade group sought Starr's assistance.

"We knew that this brief was important, and we wanted to avail ourselves of the best talent out there to figure out the best approach to address the Court of Appeals," he said. "Ken's advice, particularly, and Judge Bork's on how to approach this brief have been invaluable."

The government on Friday also filed its major brief for the antitrust appeal, defending how U.S. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson oversaw the case, his determination of the facts and conclusion that Microsoft violated antitrust law.

Special coverage: BreakupJackson in June 2000 ordered that Microsoft be broken into separate operating systems and software applications companies after earlier ruling the company violated two sections of the 1890 Sherman Act.

In a related matter, Microsoft supporters rallied behind the software maker. The Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) took out newspaper ads with a letter sent by 60 high-tech CEOs to the Bush administration and 107th Congress.

In the letter, Microsoft's supporters ask the new administration and Congress not to use the case as an opportunity to regulate the technology sector.

Bob Lande, an antitrust professor with University of Baltimore Law School, described the letter as posturing, saying, "No one now really expects Microsoft would be broken up."

He also regarded ProComp's prognostication of Starr support in a similar vein.

"Credibility is a crucial item in this case," Lande said. "Now, unfortunately, Judge Jackson has blown his credibility with the Court of Appeals, by shooting his mouth off."

Public comments Jackson continues to make about the case undermine his credibility and make it more difficult for the Court of Appeals to take how he handled the case seriously, said Bill Kovacic, an antitrust professor with George Washington University School of Law.

"Judge Jackson has damaged his position with the Court of Appeals," he said.

By adding Starr to the lineup, ProComp may hope to bolster the government's lagging credibility, Lande said.

"They are trying to raise their credibility, and Ken Starr--a former judge, respectable right-wing Republican--is a way to do that," he said.