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Pressure to Change Judge in Microsoft Antitrust Case

The lead judge of the European Union's second-highest court has proposed changing justices in the Microsoft antitrust appeal, according to several published reports.

The suggestion comes after a wave of criticism aimed at the judge heading the Microsoft antitrust case following a newspaper article he wrote criticizing other judges and clerks involved in the appeal, according to a letter sent to all parties in the case.

Reuters also reported that Court of First Instance President Bo Vesterdorf said the appeal should be transferred to a panel which he will head, primarily because public comments made by current head justice Hubert Legal, criticizing the court's "arbitrary power."

The appeal of the European Commission's antitrust ruling, which is part of the 25-nation European Union, fined Microsoft a record $613 million after it ruled the company abused its "virtual monopoly" with its Windows operating system, breaking European antitrust law governing competition.

Microsoft's appeal is currently in front of the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, which is headed by Legal.

Legal has also faced criticism for speaking publicly about the case. Calls for his removal came after he published an article in the French journal Concurrences (Competition) saying some of the judges' clerks tended to regard themselves as "ayatollahs of free enterprise" and should avoid an impression of "arbitrary power," according to the Reuters.

All members of the 25-judge court will meet this week to vote on Vesterdorf's proposals, once those who received the letter offer their comments by Friday.

A Microsoft spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the developments.

Vesterdorf previously heard Microsoft's unsuccessful attempt in 2004 to drop sanctions until the case was complete.

"It is an attempt to make vivid for the academics a theoretical, intellectual problem which we have to face in the future," Legal told Reuters, attempting to explain the reason for writing the article in the French publication.

"There was no criticism intended of Bo Vesterdorf in particular and no criticism intended for the case law of the Court of First Instance or for the court itself," he said.

It is not the first time Microsoft has been forced top deal with judges speaking about their anti-trust woes with the media. In 2001 U.S. District Judge Thomas Jackson http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/899801">improperly gave interviews about the U.S. antitrust case while the suit was ongoing.