Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Court Orders News-Press Publisher to Pay Additional $81,000 to Jerry Roberts

Former Editor in Process of Collecting Nearly $1.1 Million from Ampersand

Press release from Jerry Roberts' lawyers.

SANTA BARBARA, CA. (August 8, 2012) - Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Donna Geck Wednesday ordered Ampersand Publishing LLC. to pay journalist Jerry Roberts an additional $81,560.05 in legal costs – bringing the total the Santa Barbara News-Press publisher owes its former editor to nearly $1.1 million.

Attorneys for Roberts are currently collecting the legal judgments the prize-winning journalist has won against Ampersand, owned by investor Wendy McCaw, through a series of execution levies on the company’s bank accounts and advertisers.

Roberts expects to have collected over $750,000 by the end of August, according to his attorney Bruce Hogan. His real estate levy upon the News Press building at De La Guerra Plaza continues. If any part of Robert's judgment remains unsatisfied at the end of October, Roberts will be able to force the sale of that property in order to satisfy the judgment, the attorney said.

Judge Geck ordered Ampersand to pay Roberts the additional $81,560.05 to cover legal fees and costs incurred in overcoming its attempt to appeal a 2009 arbitration award he won over the company. His appellate attorney, Herb Fox, defeated Ampersand’s efforts before both the state Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court.

Ampersand sued Roberts for $25 million in 2006, attempting to blame him for the journalistic meltdown known locally as “the News-Press mess.” The controversy, which gained national attention, began when Roberts and other top editors resigned in protest over ethical concerns about the publishers’ handling of news stories.

In October 2009, Arbitrator Deborah Rothman ruled in Roberts’ favor, rejecting all of Ampersand’s claims against him. She wrote that the company’s true objective in the arbitration was to punish Roberts in “retaliation for speaking out about ethics at the paper.” The Arbitrator determined that “Roberts is the prevailing party” in the dispute, and ordered Ampersand to pay his attorney’s fees and related costs. With interest that has accumulated during the nearly three years of Ampersand’s failed appeals, the company now owes him nearly $1.1 million.

Judge Geck issued three other procedural orders at Wednesday’s hearing. Two of them require Roberts to describe in more detail certain assets of Ampersand’s business operations before his attorneys may execute levies against them. Another recalculated the amount of interest Ampersand must pay Roberts for his legal fees and costs. Today, attorneys for Roberts are scheduled to examine Ampersand's designated financial representative under oath about the News Press' assets and liabilities.