Profile: Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly

ByABC News

Oct. 12, 2001 -- Although she has not decided many business-related cases, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has taken on one of the biggest in a generation, presiding over the government's ongoing antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

Kollar-Kotelly, thought to be a meticulous and diligent judge, will be responsible for deciding a penalty against Microsoft, maker of the operating system used on the overwhelming majority of the world's personal computers.

Randomly Selected for the Trial

Her judicial background contains a sprinkling of business-oriented cases in the course of a 17-year career on the bench. Kollar-Kotelly's highest-profile moments have involved a murder trial and a suit over the name of football's Washington Redskins.

However, she has presided over very few antitrust matters. In 1999, Kollar-Kotelly approved a pair of antitrust cases involving Chancellor Media, which owns radio stations. A couple of her decisions in business matters could be regarded as consumer-friendly: In 1999, she made a ruling helping more people join federal credit unions, and earlier in 2001 allowed Ivax Corp. to keep making a generic version of the cancer-fighting drug Taxol.

Kollar-Kotelly, 58 was selected randomly by a computer program from a pool of 10 judges available to take over the suit. At least four other judges withdrew themselves from consideration, due to conflicts of interest or for other reasons.

President Clinton appointed Kollar-Kotelly to the District Court bench in 1997. Previously, Kollar-Kotelly had been a judge on the District of Columbia's Superior Court, a position she had held since 1984. Before that, she worked as a lawyer for a Washington hospital.

Kollar-Kotelly worked in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department after graduating from Catholic University in Washington law school in 1968. She received her B.A. there in 1965.

She is not afraid to chide those appearing in front of the bench. According to The Washington Post, Kollar-Kotelly once told a lawyer to be more measured, saying, "you're going to have a heart attack before this is all over."

Jackson Created Controversy

Presiding over the often-contentious lawsuit, first filed against Microsoft by the Department of Justice in October 1997, could be a trying task for any judge, but Kollar-Kotelly's words and actions will be scrutinized especially closely after the controversial role played by her predecessor in the case, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.

In a November 1999 ruling, Jackson found Microsoft guilty of abusing its monopoly position. In a June 2000 decision, he then recommended breaking up Microsoft into two smaller companies, one concerned with software and one focusing on other applications.

In June of this year, an appeals court upheld the bulk of the first ruling but overturned the breakup order and threw Jackson off the case, saying critical comments he made to the press about Microsoft and its co-founder, Bill Gates, "had seriously tainted the proceedings."

Soon after her appointment, Kollar-Kotelly briefly had to deal with propriety questions of her own. Published reports revealed that her husband, John Kotelly, a lawyer in private practice in Washington, had signed a lawsuit filed by the Corel Corp., a software maker which is both in competition with Microsoft and has also benefited from Microsoft's financial backing. Kotelly has since withdrawn from any involvement in the case.

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