U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson won’t be ruling on another lawsuit filed against software giant Microsoft Corp. The judge issued a six-page order late Monday that made his decision official — he’s officially recused himself from the case. Although he defended his findings in the earlier case, Jackson tacitly agreed that comments he made regarding Microsoft’s past conduct have “created an appearance of personal bias or prejudice.”
Jackson has presided over a case which may decide the future of Microsoft — in his ruling, Jackson said that the company should be broken up in order to comply with federal anti-trust regulations. Microsoft has appealed the decision with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and while the court has defended the rulings of law, it has also openly criticized Jackson’s conduct.
Judges have no right to “go run off our mouths” to reporters about cases they’re hearing, said the Appeals Court Chief Judge Harry Edwards. “The system would be a sham if all judges went around doing this.”
Jackson was also to preside over a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Microsoft employee. The suit claims that Microsoft violated the civil rights of African-American employees; the plaintiff sought to petition for class-action status. Earlier this year Jackson had scheduled further proceedings for March 2, but later cancelled those plans. Late yesterday, Jackson granted Microsoft’s request for recusal and returned the case to the Court’s calendar committee for reassignment.
Microsoft spokesperson Jim Cullinan said that his company is satisfied with Jackson’s decision to recuse.
“We respectively disagree with the District Court’s comments, but these issues are before the Court of Appeals, so it would be inappropriate for us to comment,” said Cullinan.