WSJ Demands Judge Denise Cote Be Taken Off the eBook Antitrust Case

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Apple recently filed a motion against the court-appointed lawyer to monitor its activity in the eBook case, saying that the lawyer charges too much for its services. The Wall Street Journal has published a strong editorial calling Denise Cote, the judge in the eBook antitrust case, a disgrace to the judiciary. But there is much more: the article shed light on the relationship between judge Cote and Michael Bromwich, the court-appointed lawyer. And this is where things get interesting.

As it turns out, legal fees are just a small part of the dispute: the main issue is Judge Cote’s order — issued on November 21 — which proposes Bromwhich to be permitted to hold regular ex parte meetings with Cote (without transcripts).

As Philip Elmer Dewitt of Fortune highlights, Denise Cote, who found Apple guilty of conspiring with other publishers to fix the prices of eBooks, and Michael Bromwich are old friends, so the judge’s choice to hand the lucrative task to the lawyer makes (more) sense.

“While he has great political connections, Mr. Bromwich has no experience in antitrust law. The greenhorn is billing Apple at an $1,100 hourly rate and he was forced to hire the law firm Fried Frank to make up for his lack of expertise, at $1,025 a hour. He racked up $138,432.40 in charges for his first two weeks. A spokesman for Mr. Bromwich’s firm, the Bromwich Group, declined to comment on matters currently before the court.”

In the end, it is worth noting here that News Corp, the owner of the WSJ, also owns HarperCollins, one of the publishers involved in the antitrust case, so this could serve as an explanation of the anger that comes through in WSJ article. You can read a more detailed, “dispassionate” article published by Fortune here.