Judge in airline merger gets high marks for impartiality
The federal judge in Washington who will hear the high-stakes case of whether US Airways Group and American Airlines can merge to become the world's largest airline has a deep record on antitrust and national security law.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly began her career as a law clerk for a Washington appeals court judge, worked as a prosecutor for three years in the criminal appeals division of the Justice Department, and spent more than a decade as chief legal counsel for Washington's St. Elizabeths Hospital.
She was nominated to the District of Columbia Superior Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and appointed in 1997 by President Bill Clinton to U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Kollar-Kotelly has experience with prominent cases. She oversaw a settlement in 2001 in the lawsuit brought by the Justice Department and 20 states that accused Microsoft Corp. of illegally thwarting competition and abusing its monopoly power on Intel-based computer operating systems.
In 2002, she was chosen by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist Jr. to preside over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a panel of federal judges that considers government applications for surveillance and searches in intelligence matters. She was on the court until 2009.
Lawyers who have appeared in her courtroom give Kollar-Kotelly high marks for legal ability, judicial demeanor and courtroom efficiency, and describe her as balanced and fair-minded.
“She has no leanings; she's very fair-minded. ... I don't always agree with every ruling, but she's balanced,” lawyers said of the judge in the annual Wolters Kluwer almanac of the federal judiciary. “She calls it down the middle.”
The Justice Department, six states — including Pennsylvania — and the District of Columbia have sued to block the $11 billion merger of American and US Airways, saying it would hurt competition and drive up prices for consumers.
The airlines intend to fight the lawsuit and have maintained that the merger would give customers more flight choices.
Kollar-Kotelly, born in 1943, went to college and law school at Catholic University of America in Washington.
She took over the Microsoft case in 2001 after Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson had ruled that Microsoft acted illegally. Kollar-Kotelly supervised a resolution and monitored Microsoft's compliance for a decade.
“She's very thorough. She's very careful. She's very respectful of lawyers and reads everything that is given to her,” said Stephen Houck, who was lead trial lawyer for 20 states in the government's lawsuit against Microsoft.
“She's very hardworking. When she writes an opinion, it's very long,” said Houck, an antitrust lawyer at Menaker & Herrmann L.L.P. in New York. “I think she'll give both sides a fair shake and listen carefully to what they have to say.”
In the mid-2000s, Kollar-Kotelly oversaw an antitrust lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission that accused drug manufacturer Warner Chilcott Ltd. of colluding with generic drugmaker Barr Laboratories to keep a lower-price generic version of Warner Chilcott's Ovcon oral contraceptive off the market.
As a lawyer, Kollar-Kotelly didn't have an antitrust background, but as a judge she has “done a really good job of educating herself on antitrust issues and has the necessary background to handle” the American-US Airways case, said Michael McLellan, an antitrust lawyer in Washington who represented a health plan in litigation related to the Warner Chilcott case.
“She's smart. She has the chops to unravel it,” said McLellan, with Finkelstein, Thompson L.L.P. “It's going to be a really interesting case to watch.”
In 2009, Kollar-Kotelly ordered the release of a Kuwaiti man, Fouad Mahmoud al Rabiah, held at Guantanamo Bay, and rebuked the U.S. government for relying on scant evidence, witnesses who were not credible, and coerced confessions to hold him for more than seven years, the Associated Press reported.
The judge is overseeing the criminal case against Stephen Kim, a former National Security Agency official charged with leaking classified information about North Korea to a Fox News reporter. A trial is scheduled for April.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Travelers love to hate cheap airlines
- 2 Fed members push case for rate hike in ’15
- UAW ups Fiat Chrysler workers’ pay in new proposal
- Safety of credit cards up to banks
- Majority of House members sign petition calling for vote on Export-Import Bank’s charter
- Volkswagen may compensate vehicle owners for loss of value, CEO says
- ‘Coffin-nosed Cord’ was ahead of its time
- Miata leaves cutesy behind for sleek
- Stocks wrap best week of year with slight gains
- Uncle Charley’s Sausage expands sales to Maryland, Virginia
- CMU showcases its lengthy list of fledgling companies at venture event