Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Microsoft Mediator No Gray Academic

CHICAGO -- He's known to friends as a "Renaissance man," an opera buff with a wry sense of humor who recently surprised some people by writing a book about President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

But federal appeals Judge Richard Posner is also known as a leading legal scholar with a passion for economics - something he's sure to need in his new role as mediator in the marathon Microsoft antitrust case.

"He is the leading antitrust scholar of his generation and one of the great judges of his generation," said Daniel Fischel, dean of the University of Chicago law school where Posner was once a professor.

Posner, 60, was named as mediator in the Microsoft case Friday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in Washington.

Jackson found Nov. 5 that Microsoft is a monopoly that stifled competition and hurt consumers. Jackson now wants the software giant and federal antitrust lawyers to try and solve the problem in "voluntary talks" at the bargaining table.

Posner's job is to make the process work.

Posner, chief judge of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, comes into the talks with impeccable credentials as an expert on antitrust law and economics. At the University of Chicago from 1969 until 1981, he pioneered a school of legal thought with the importance of economics as its basis.

The concept brought him fame and controversy as well.

He once suggested that adoption decisions might well be based on economic factors - such as how much money prospective parents have.

Some said that seemed inhuman.

"I think he is very challenging, but I don't think that he is off the wall in any way," said Gerald Gunther, a Stanford University authority on constitutional law who respects Posner but has doubts about his theories.

"When you're talking about liberty and equality, I don't think you can solve that with an equation or a mathematical formula," he said.

Posner was unavailable for interviews about the appointment.

Political conservatives welcomed former President Ronald Reagan's appointment of Posner to the Chicago-based appeals court.

But Posner, who was graduated summa cum laude from Yale and was first in his class at the Harvard law school as well as president of the Harvard Law Review, proved himself capable of springing surprises.

In a 5-4 opinion, the appeals court recently upheld Illinois and Wisconsin bans on a type of late-term abortion. All five of the majority judges were Reagan appointees.

Posner, however, wrote the minority opinion that the laws should be overturned.

The idea that a federal judge would write a Lewinsky book came as a surprise to some - but not to those who know Posner as a man whose interests encompass a range that includes opera and the classics as well as the law.

"He certainly is a Renaissance man," said Elizabeth Garrett, a University of Chicago law professor and deputy dean.

His book, "An Affair of State," takes American institutions to task. Among other things, he says that in a real trial of Clinton, most senators would be disqualified as jurors. But he also pulls no punches with his legal and moral evaluations of Clinton.

He told The New York Times in a Sept. 26 interview that the Lewinsky affair "struck me early on as a fabulous show."

"The Clintons are terrific actors, and there was a Shakespearean quality to it all," he said.