Editor Wins, McCaw Loses

News-Press Owner Ordered to Pay Jerry Roberts $900,000 in Attorney’s Fees

A California appeals court has affirmed an arbitrator’s decision that Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw must pay approximately $900,000 in attorney’s fees to former editor Jerry Roberts.

Roberts resigned on July 6, 2006, on grounds that McCaw was intolerably interfering with news coverage, touching off staff resignations and a newsroom meltdown. McCaw then filed a $25 million breach of contract arbitration action against Roberts, claiming that he was responsible for the resulting barrage of negative news coverage in other media outlets.

McCaw appealed arbitrator Deborah Rothman’s decision, which didn’t award damages to either side but stipulated Roberts was the prevailing party and due attorney’s fees. Wednesday’s decision by the 2nd District California Court of Appeal in Ventura came only two weeks after the justices heard the case.

Now the clock ticks for 100 days. McCaw has 40 days to petition the California Supreme Court to accept a review. The court has 60 days to decide, but historically the court only accepts about one percent of such non-capital punishment cases, according to Herb Fox, appeals attorney for Roberts.

If the Supreme Court declines to review the case, Roberts can then seek payment, barring unforeseen developments. At last count, McCaw’s legal expenses were estimated at $2.4 million and have mounted since then.

“We are gratified by the outcome of the case,” Fox said. “We think this case is over.”

The Santa Barbara Independent was unable to reach lawyers for McCaw.

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