U.S. District Court Judge Harold Greene yesterday rejected a request by the Justice Department to cite American Telephone & Telegraph Co. for contempt of court.
The motion, which was filed almost two months ago, alleged that AT&T had failed to produce 3.1 million pages of documents in connection with the government's ongoing antitrust suit against the Bell System.
"I should advise the parties that I am denying the government's request for civil comtempt in connection with" the documents, Greene said after a morning recess. The judge added that a finished written order had not been prepared because his secretary was ill.
Greene also denied a government request for relief in the motion. The government had asked Greene for access to AT&T's computerized data base, which would have provided Justice Department lawyers with a compilation of the papers.
The motion represented the first time the government has requested such a sanction. It stemmed from a charge that AT&T had failed to produce the documents for as long as a year after receiving them from adversaries in other antitrust cases.
In a subsequent court filing, AT&T had called the charges "reckless" and an effort to "embarrass" the company. "Obviously, there was not substance to the request," said an AT&T spokesman yesterday. Government attorneys were not available for comment.