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WSJ slams judge in Apple e-book trial

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The Wall Street Journal today came to the very public defense of Apple in an editorial opinion piece titled "Apple's Star Chamber: An abusive judge and her prosecutor friend besiege the tech maker." The abuser in question is Clinton appointee Judge Denise Cote, who thrashed Apple back in July for allegedly conspiring with publishers to raise digital book prices. As part of her ruling, Cote appointed a friend -- Michael Bromwich (AP photo above) -- to monitor antitrust compliance and training procedures. Bromwich has since decided "to act as the inquisitor of all things Cupertino," to quote the WSJ.

Cote's original injunction provided a period of time ending on January 14, 2014 for Apple to thoroughly examine and update its antitrust policies. But as the Journal notes, by late October, Bromwich had "demanded immediate interviews starting in November with every top Apple executive and board member, including CEO Tim Cook, lead designer Jony Ive and Al Gore," adding with no small amount of snark, "Does he want to disinter Steve Jobs too?"

Things have gotten worse since then, with Bromwich asking for documentation outside of the clearly defined area of his appointment and ordering board members and executives to meet with him without lawyers present. Cote proposed making things even easier for Bromwich just before Thanksgiving, suggesting amending her injunction to give Bromwich more power and then have him report to her monthly, once again without Apple's participation.

The Journal points out, "the arrangement is flatly unconstitutional. Special masters are typically imposed on a company to remedy a pattern of especially egregious conduct using a settlement consent decree in which litigants agree to the terms of the appointment." In this case, Apple objected to Bromwich's appointment to no avail. The WSJ article notes that, "Judges aren't supposed to appoint their own agents to annex ... activities reserved for the executive branch," and that Bromwich has "rewritten his job description to investigate Apple all over again."

As TUAW has noted earlier and as reiterated in the WSJ editorial, Bromwich has no antitrust law experience, is billing Apple US$1,100 per hour and has brought in a "friendly" law firm -- Fried Frank -- to cover his lack of antitrust abilities at $1,025 per hour, once again billed to Apple. The Journal ends its piece with a flat-out suggestion that "the Second Circuit where her ruling is on appeal should remove her from the case," and that Cote's cozy agreement with Bromwich "is offensive to the rule of law and a disgrace to the judiciary."

It's not often that we see a major news source like the Wall Street Journal come to the defense of a corporation, but it appears in this case that the harsh words in print are justified.

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