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Judge Pressures Apple to Settle E-book Price-Fixing Lawsuit?

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

And then there was one.

After a fifth publisher settled on Wednesday, Apple is alone in fighting against the U.S. Justice Department's accusations that the company and publishers conspired to fix e-book prices. If Judge Denise Cole's comments on Thursday are reflective of the strength of the government's case, we could see Apple come to a last minute settlement as well.

They better hurry. The trial is set for June 3rd.

Pressure to Settle

Does it get more clear than this? Before the trial has even commenced, the judge expressed her tentative opinion, based on the evidence that she has reviewed so far, and it does not look promising for Apple:

I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books, and that the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that.

According to Reuters, the unusually explicit evaluation of Apple’s case was labeled by the judge as tentative. She assured the parties that no final decision would be made until the trial takes place (though she also said that she has begun work on a draft of the written opinion … again, without a trial).

The accusations are simple. Apple, along with five publishers, conspired to fix e-book prices (and price gouge customers). The government even has emails to and from the late Steve Jobs himself, reports TechnoBuffalo.

With all five of the publishers reaching settlement, including Penguin’s $75 million settlement on Wednesday, Apple is left in a war with no allies. Many have opined that the judge’s statements were intended to pressure the last-remaining defendant to settle.

Too Far?

It certainly does beg the question, doesn’t it? While a judge pressuring a party to settle (or come to a plea bargain) is not that unusual, the judge’s candor and notice that she had already begun drafting her opinion at least gives the appearance of bias.

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