Monday, April 22, 2002

Truth? You Can't Handle... Oh, Nevermind.

Mike Deem: “When simplifying for mass consumption any issue as complex as this one, one could ‘spin’ it in any number of ways without abandoning the ‘truth.’ Gates is spinning this one in the way that is best for Microsoft’s bottom line. It is his responsibility to Microsoft’s share holders to do this.” I responded “Mike, while I’m not a lawyer, I don’t think it’s legal to spin when you’re under oath. I think it’s required that you tell the truth.” [Scripting News]

Well, I am a lawyer (kinda – got the degree, but chose to work on the technology side of the fence). And I don’t think it’s nearly as black ‘n white as Dave Winer would like us to believe.

When you’re under oath, you’re required to answer the questions asked. Answer the questions truthfully. There’s no need to volunteer more information than asked. The lawyers need to do the hard part: ask the questions in such a way that the only possible answer is the one that, while “truthful” (in that it contains no falsehoods) is also unambiguous.

There is no question that Bill Gates is a Very Smart Man. And as Mike Deem rightly points out, Gates’s responsibility is to his shareholders. (Mike left out an equally important duty: to the judicial system to tell the truth. But that’s more or less implied in his post.) The job of the states’ attorney(s) is to corner Gates so that he admits what is technically possible (or not) and why. It’s a chess match, and there are few absolutes.

Has anyone seen a transcript?

And, in honor of our favorite Louisiana lawyer, here’s a link to the Louisiana State Bar’s guidelines for preparing to be a witness.

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