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WSJ: Apple e-book judge is ‘a disgrace to the judiciary’


The Journal’s headline and the Judge’s friend

FORTUNE — Most of arguments the Wall Street Journal made Friday in a strident editorial calling for the ouster of the judge in the e-book antitrust case were taken from a motion Apple (AAPL) filed last week. (See Apple to judge: You and your antitrust monitor are way out of line.)

But there was also a nugget of new reporting. It’s about the relationship between Denise Cote, the federal judge who found Apple guilty last July of conspiring to fix the price of e-books, and Michael Bromwich, the lawyer — and, the Journal claims, old friend — to whom she handed the lucrative task of monitoring Apple’s compliance:

“Readers may recall Mr. Bromwich as the political fixer President Obama brought in after the BP deepwater oil spill. He worked for Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh in the Reagan era and as inspector general for the Justice Department in the Clinton years.

“He was confirmed for the latter job despite conflicts of interest; his mentor Philip Heymann was Deputy Attorney General and inspectors general are supposed to be impartial watchdogs. In 1994, Judge Cote wrote Mr. Bromwich an effusive endorsement letter to help push him over the Senate hump.”

“The Second Circuit where her ruling is on appeal should remove her from the case,” the editorial concludes. “Her condominium with Mr. Bromwich is offensive to the rule of law and a disgrace to the judiciary.”

If the Journal‘s rhetoric seems a bit over the top (“condominium”?), that may be because News Corp. (NWS), which publishes the paper, has a stick in this particular fire. It also owns HarperCollins, one of the five e-book publishers Judge Cote ruled had colluded with Apple. Ironically, HarperCollins was the conspiracy’s most reluctant participant. It threw in with Apple only after Steve Jobs appealed to News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch.

For a more dispassionate analysis of the legal issues at stake, I recommend the piece my Fortune colleague Roger Parloff posted Monday:

Behind Apple’s mutiny against its court-ordered e-books monitor

See also: Never get between an Apple antitrust monitor and his per diem