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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Justice Department is swapping one veteran lawyer of the Florida recount battle for another in its landmark antitrust case against Microsoft.

The government’s new lead trial attorney, Philip Beck, led President Bush’s efforts to stop a recount of disputed presidential election ballots in Florida last year.

Beck replaces David Boies, who represented former Vice President Al Gore in the same Florida legal battle.

“Phil Beck is an extraordinarily talented and highly regarded trial attorney,” said Charles A. James, the Justice Department’s antitrust chief.

A federal appeals court ruled in June that Microsoft had operated as an illegal monopoly and harmed consumers. But the court reversed the trial judge’s order breaking up the company, and sent the case back to a different lower court judge to decide a new penalty.

Lawyer Barry Richard, who worked with Beck during the recount case, said, “They could not have selected a more competent or nicer lawyer to work with. He’s extraordinarily skilled and he is very professional.”

Ron Klain, Gore’s chief legal strategist in Florida, said Beck is “certainly one of the best trial lawyers in America. He is absolutely first-rate.”

Beck has represented many large companies, including DuPont, Bayer, Phillips Petroleum, General Motors and Dresser Industries, now part of Halliburton. Beck, who starts with the Justice Department on Monday, is a founding partner of Chicago law firm Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott.

Also Friday, Microsoft opposed the Justice Department’s motion to speed up the case.

Microsoft had asked the appeals court to revisit whether it illegally “commingled” Windows operating system software code with that of its Internet Explorer browser.

The company wants the court to delay sending the case back to district court until a week after considering the request.

“This filing asks for an appropriate and limited time period for the company to address any legal issues related to the Court of Appeals ruling,” Microsoft spokesman Vivek Varma said.

Varma said the company still has not decided whether it will ask the Supreme Court to review part or all of the appeals court’s verdict.


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