Up to 70 witnesses may be called to testify in the Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit against AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile USA, a special master for the case ordered in court documents filed Sunday.
Special master Richard Levi ruled that each side will be able to call in a maximum of 35 witnesses at the trial, which is slated to begin Feb. 13. Levi was called in last month to help manage the case.
Levi’s order was prompted in part by concerns about the number of potential witnesses.
“The math on the number of possible depositions and the looming February 13 trial date raise very serious concerns,” he wrote in his order, which sets limits on the number of witnesses that can be put on the stand.
Neither side will be allowed to call witnesses at trial that were not previously identified under the terms of Levi’s order, with exceptions for good cause.
The limitation will force AT&T and the DOJ to vet their witnesses more carefully and “should also avoid a last minute effort to put individuals on the list of trial witnesses who were not previously named in a timely fashion so that the opposing side could decide during pretrial discovery whether or not to depose that person,” Levi wrote.
The DOJ has until tomorrow to name up to 18 potential fact witnesses to defend its allegations. It will be allowed to name an additional 12 witnesses on Dec. 5.
AT&T must name 18 potential witnesses on Nov. 23 and can name an additional dozen witnesses on Dec. 12.
Both sides are being allowed to name up to five more witnesses on Jan. 6.
Neither AT&T nor the DOJ could be reached for comment on the ruling.
The trial for the antitrust case could be lengthy and complicated. Levi told AT&T and the DOJ in an e-mail last week that the judge presiding over the case expected the trial to run four days a week for between four to six weeks. The hearing is expected to last for five-and-a-half hours a day.
The DOJ’s attempt to bar AT&T’s $39 billion buyout of T-Mobile is a major stumbling block for the merger. AT&T attempted to sweeten the deal by pledging to repatriate thousands of call center jobs and expand its LTE plans to rural areas of the country, but the provisions failed to offset DOJ concerns about the effect of the merger on competition.
The acquisition would give AT&T and Verizon Wireless a near duopoly hold on the U.S. wireless market and leave Sprint in a distant third place.
Sprint and C Spire Wireless, formerly Cellular South, are also suing over the deal, but a judge threw out many of their claims in a ruling earlier this month. Last week, Levi ordered Sprint to hand over thousands of documents to AT&T as part of the suit.
Filed Under: Industry regulations