Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For Roberts, Dispute With McCaw Is An Endless Bummer

It's been two months since Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge James Brown ordered the News-Press to complete the arbitration of its dispute with former editor Jerry Roberts and to pay over $20,000 of his attorney's fees which he incurred in opposing their motion to have the arbitration dismissed.

Well, no one has returned to arbitration and not one dime of his attorney's fees have been paid. And it looks like that will remain the case for awhile. In fact, it could be a long time before the parties return to arbitration.

On February 20th of this year Ampersand Publishing, the parent company of the Santa Barbara News-Press appealed Brown's ruling.

According to attorney Herb Fox, who is handling the appeal on Robert's behalf, it could be 12 to 14 months before the appeal is decided.

I asked Fox whether Brown's decision really was appealable. (Usually, it's only final judgments that completely determine a case that can be appealed, and Brown's ruling didn't fit that description.)

Fox noted that "there is some tension" between that rule and the principle that any order requiring the payment of money is generally considered to be appealable.

Adding that he has never in his over 20 years of practicing law encountered a situation where a party was ordered to go back and complete an arbitration, Fox said he is still considering whether to file a motion to dismiss the appeal.

That may expedite the process of getting the case back to the arbitrator, then again, it may not.

This isn't the first time Fox has gone up against lawyers for News-Press owner Wendy McCaw. He was part of former McCaw boyfriend Greg Parker's legal team when his arbitration case went to the very same court of appeal which now has Roberts' case.

That case ended up being sent back to arbitration when the court of appeal decided that the contract between McCaw and Parker called for three arbitrators rather than the single arbitrator who had ruled in Parker's favor.

And McCaw came out better the second time around.

I'm sure at this point that Roberts would be happy to simply get back into arbitration. And the sooner the better.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and