WASHINGTON — The federal judge presiding over the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against AT&T-Time Warner said that he is “firmly convinced” that the trial, set to being on Monday, will last six to eight weeks.
That is longer than the roughly four-week timeframe that has been anticipated. AT&T and Time Warner already extended their merger agreement deadline to June 21, shortly after the trial date was set in December.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon also lashed out at a Reuters report that the start of the trial would be delayed by two days, to next Wednesday. Right after he entered the courtroom for a status hearing on Thursday, he said that he was “handed what some people would call fake news.” He challenged the story, insisting that it will start on Monday and suggesting that the reporter needed to be educated on trial procedures.
The first two days of the trial — Monday and Tuesday — will be set aside to go through some 200 evidentiary objections raised in the case, he said. He seemed a bit irked that the objections were listed in small type that was tough to read.
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The opening arguments will be on Wednesday, with 45 minutes given to each side.
Leon indicated that the trial will be longer than originally thought because of the number of witnesses and the volume of evidence and objections. He said that he didn’t think a four-week trial was “anywhere near realistic.”
He also told the parties that he would “strongly encourage” them to “try the case in court,” and even mentioned the possibility of holding individuals in contempt.
“I don’t want to hear about press commentary from ‘senior government officials’ or CEOs,” he said.
He said that he would hold in contempt anyone in the media or public who uses electronics in the courtroom, and even admonished someone sitting in the courtroom who apparently thought that point was funny.
“It’s not a laughing matter, front row,” he said. “We’re not here for the purposes of entertaining third parties. The stakes are very high for both sides in this case.”