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The Associated Press reports this morning that in the lawsuit pitting Wal-Mart and 3,999,999 other retailers against MasterCard and Visa, US District Judge John Gleeson has placed tough restrictions on the lawyers for both sides.

The biggest rule: a timekeeper will be employed to make sure that lawyers don’t use more than their allotted time each day, with then judge rejecting a motion by the credit card companies that the restrictions be eased. The retailers’ lead attorney called the time limits “a great idea.”

The plaintiffs get a total of 150 hours. The defendants get 170 hours. Each day, each side will be informed how much time they’ve used.

As it is, the case is expected to last three months.

The judge reportedly even considered allowing jurors question witnesses, but dropped that proposal when both sides objected.

The retailers are suing because Visa and MasterCard have been forcing them to accept branded debit cards with high transaction fees, saying that the credit card companies have threatened not to allow them to accept their credit cards if the debit cards aren’t accepted.

The judge also said that he would lay out the issues for the jurors before the trial commences -- normally such statements are only made before the jury starts deliberating -- and that the lawyers will be allowed to address the jury with “transition statements” before witnesses take the stand, positioning testimony in what most people say is a highly complex case.
KC's View:
This judge is our new hero. Thank goodness Lance Ito isn’t on the bench for this one, or we’d be listening to testimony in 2005…

(We can hear the Johnnie Cochran defense now: "If the debit card isn't accepted, then the class action suit must be rejected...")