The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to hear the case directly so that the process would not be bogged down by numerous appeals. Microsoft would prefer the case be heard by the Appellate Court, a court known for its sympathetic outlook on big-business. According to a C-Net report:
The Justice Department, which in 26 years has only twice asked the Supreme Court to take a direct appeal, contends the case is of "immense importance to our national economy.
Many legal experts expect the Supreme Court will choose not to take the case at this time. One main reason is that the appeals court has expressed interest in the case.
"With the Court of Appeals willing to hear the case en banc and potentially only a four- or five-month delay in the process, the Supreme Court could be inclined not to take the case at this time," said Bill Kovacic, an antitrust professor at George Washington University Law School.
If the high court takes the case, it would likely issue a decision by June 2001, effectively ending the case. If the court passes the case back to the appellate level, a decision there is not expected before nine months--and more likely a year. The Supreme Court would then get another crack at the case, which would delay a final decision until summer 2002.
The full C-Net article has more information and is a good read.