- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson doesn't hold back: When a Microsoft lawyer once complained that too many excerpts of Bill Gates' videotaped deposition were being shown in trial, Judge Jackson quickly made his feelings known.

"I think the problem is with your witness, not with the way in which his testimony is being presented," he barked.

"I think it's evident to every spectator that, for whatever reasons, in many respects Mr. Gates has not been particularly responsive," said the U.S. District Court judge, appointed to the bench by President Reagan in 1982.

The occasionally outspoken judge overseeing the historic antitrust lawsuit filed against Microsoft by the government and several states is no stranger to high-profile cases.

In 1994, the tall, white-haired judge ordered then-Sen. Bob Packwood, Oregon Republican, to turn over his diaries to the Senate Ethics Committee investigating sexual-harassment charges against Mr. Packwood. The journals' contents ultimately proved to be Mr. Packwood's undoing.

Earlier, Judge Jackson, now 63, presided over the cocaine-possession trial of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. He publicly criticized some jurors in the case telling a Harvard University audience he thought "four jurors were determined to acquit regardless of the facts." And he said the government had put on a very strong case. His comments prompted Mr. Barry's futile attempt to have Judge Jackson disqualified from sentencing him.

Judge Jackson also presided over the trial of former Reagan White House aide Michael Deaver, who was convicted of lying under oath about whether he engaged in inappropriate lobbying of one-time White House associates.

Over the years, Judge Jackson has had an uncomfortable relationship with the press, although he has dealt with reporters frequently in the Microsoft case, even sharing a cab with several on one occasion.

He grew up in the Washington suburb of Kensington, Md., the son of a prominent lawyer, and attended both private and public schools, even serving at one point as editor of his high school newspaper, before moving on to Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and later, Harvard University law school. From 1958 to 1961, he served in the Navy aboard a destroyer in the Mediterranean, then joined his father's law firm upon his return to Washington.

No case has matched the visibility of the current one: the government's push to break up software giant Microsoft.

The Justice Department called for splitting Microsoft into two competing companies after Judge Jackson ruled in early April that the company had violated several provisions of federal antitrust law.

"He's the perfect example of why the Constitution gives federal judges life tenure that provision is designed to give them a great degree of independence, and Judge Jackson is clearly demonstrating that independence in this case," said Rich Gray, an antitrust expert with a law firm in California's Silicon Valley.

Steve Houck, the former lead attorney for the states, called Judge Jackson "an independent thinker" known to surprise people on occasion.

"He's been very innovative from the beginning in terms of the procedures he put in place" in the trial, said Mr. Houck, now a private lawyer for Reboul, MacMurray in New York.

To help speed the nonjury Microsoft trial, Judge Jackson limited each side to 12 witnesses and had those witnesses submit their direct testimony in writing. He has tried to move the case along even though some earlier antitrust cases have taken years to complete.

During the 78-day trial, Judge Jackson gave attorneys for both sides great leeway to conduct their examinations. He rarely overruled objections and only occasionally prodded them to speed things up.

Some critics contended Judge Jackson's handling of the case revealed a pro-government slant, but Mr. Gray disagreed. He noted that the judge could have been much harsher toward Microsoft in several instances, particularly when the company was questioned about the credibility of videotaped evidence that it introduced and ultimately yanked.

"On two days running, Microsoft decided to put evidence in front of the judge that had been altered in a way that they didn't reveal," Mr. Gray said. "If he were truly hostile to Microsoft, he could have made a big deal about that" in his two-part ruling against the company.

The Microsoft trial has given Judge Jackson plenty of exposure and more attention than he's probably used to from courtroom regulars, who will often comment about the judge's habit of checking the clock, chewing the ice from his glass of water and taking frequent breaks.

But Mr. Houck said people tend to underestimate Judge Jackson.

"Sometime, his apparent lack of interest sitting on the bench was due to the fact that the testimony was cumulative," he said. "He already understood what was being told to him for the third and fourth time."

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