Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Maybe They Should Call Them "Lengthys" Instead

Although the NLRB hearings on whether the Santa Barbara News-Press illegally fired eight of its reporters and committed various other violations of labor law concluded back on September 26th, it was only a couple of weeks ago that the lawyers in the case filed their closing briefs. And considering that the "briefs" added up to being 450 pages in length, perhaps we should think of another name to call them.

The NLRB's General Counsel, who took the lead in prosecuting the case, submitted a 193 page brief. Santa Barbara's Barry Cappello, on behalf of the News-Press, weighed in at 129 and the Teamsters Union submitted a 115 page brief.

And those briefs consisted totally of legal arguments. No exhibits were filed with the briefs to pad them out.

Perhaps even more astounding is that after 450 pages the parties still aren't done "briefing." Reply briefs, in which each side has a chance to respond to the arguments made by the other in the closing briefs, are due this Friday. Mercifully those are limited to ten pages each.

Based on the track record of administrative law judge William G. Kocol in other cases, union attorney Ira Gottlieb is optimistic that there will be a fairly short turnaround in this case from conclusion of the hearing to the issuance of a decision. Although we are still looking at a time frame in the range of four to six months.

Only in labor law does "brief" mean 450 pages and "short" means four to six months.

Meanwhile, in the copyright infringement case brought by the News-Press against the Independent, the News-Press is seeking a postponement of the jury trial which is now set for January 29th of next year until no sooner than late March of 2008.

The reason given is that the parties are still fighting over what evidence the News-Press is entitled to get from the Independent. The parties will be returning to court shortly to get a ruling on that issue.

By my calculations if the News-Press gets its postponement, the copyright trial should be starting just about the same time Judge Kocol issues his ruling in the NLRB case.

By that time, local film maker Sam Tyler's documentary film on the News-Press meltdown should already have come to a theater or TV screen near you.

Last week I got a preview of the documentary, which is about two-thirds completed, and I, along with the others who were in attendance, was very impressed.

The film, which begins with the Rob Lowe address incident, is a fast-paced yet thorough examination of the News-Press saga and the question of journalistic ethics that has surrounded the paper since its purchase by billionaire owner Wendy McCaw.

The film features interviews not only with many of the paper's former editors and reporters but also national figures such as former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee.

The production values incorporated into the film are truly stunning. I predict the film will appeal to a wide audience beyond Santa Barbara.

It sounds though, based on talking to Tyler, that the film's premiere, originally announced for January 11th of next year, may be pushed back into February.

Funny that you can start and complete a feature length film about the News-Press controversy before you can get a single case arising out of it finally decided once and for all by a court.

* * *

Recent departures at the News-Press are getting play in the L.A. Blogosphere. The firing of Cliff Redding for the mixup that put departing copy editor Lara Milton's farewell "tribute" on the News-Press website is covered in Fishbowl LA and business writer Tom (the controversy is dying down) Risen's
is noted in L.A. Observed.

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