The News-Press Waiting Game

Will the Dodgers Win a World Series Before Wendy McCaw's Fate is Known?

Wendy McCaw (left) and her co-publisher/fiancee Arthur von Wiesenberger (right) exit the courthouse behind attorney Barry Cappello.
Paul Wellman

Wait Till Next Year: I don’t know which will take longer: waiting for the Dodgers to field a playoff-bound team or get NLRB Judge William Kocol‘s decision on Wendy McCaw.

Poker-faced Judge Kocol’s opinion may come in around the time the Dodgers are in spring training in 2008. By this time a year from now, we’ll know whether “the Dodger kids” have booted out the old-timers and won the division and whether McCaw has launched appeal of Kocol.

You can bet a Coolidge dollar that if Judge Kocol rules against the News-Press and finds that it violated federal law by firing union reporters that she’ll sic attorney Barry Cappello onto the full National Labor Relations Board for an appeal.

On the Beat

Given the much-criticized glacial movement of the board on appeals, the process could take way longer than the World Series, maybe into Dodger spring training of 2009. By then the kids will be veterans, with a new crop of other kids nipping at their cleats.

There are folks around town who’ll bet you a round of martinis at Lucky’s that if McCaw doesn’t prevail at the NLRB, she’ll move onto the federal courts. And if that fails, don’t be surprised to see her asking the U.S. Supremes to overrule the lower courts.

As for the Dodgers, I don’t know of anyone who’d bet more than a short beer at Harry’s that they’ll win a playoff game before the current kids have been traded away. The last time the team won a playoff series was 19 years ago.

Now that the Dodgers are finished for the year, people around town are speculating about what the just-ended NLRB trial cost McCaw in legal fees. Blogger Craig Smith, who didn’t miss a day in the courtroom, speculates that the bill was around $500,000.

But I know people who think that’s way low, that Cappello will hand her an invoice closer to (gulp!) a million bucks. After all, Barry doesn’t work cheap, and he had lots of high-priced help, including an out-of-town legal gunslinger.

If you asked McCaw, she’d probably say: It was worth it.

And remember, even though the trial ended this week, there’s still work to be gone, including submitting briefs and counter-briefs.

Tracy Lehr (left) of KEYT tries to get a comment from <em>News-Press</em> owner Wendy McCaw as she walks down the street with co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger and attorney Barry Cappello.
Paul Wellman

Speaking of legal costs, don’t forget that McCaw is operating a virtual Lawyers Full Employment Act. For one thing, she’s still trying to overturn the legality of the newsroom employees’ vote a year ago to affiliate with the Teamsters. The NLRB ruled the election valid, but that didn’t stop her from filing a new objection.

Then there’s her $25 million arbitration action against former editor Jerry Roberts for breach of contract and insisting on professional editing. That’s just my guess, because due to the supposed confidential nature of the arbitration process, the details haven’t been made public.

You’ll recall that she first filed a $500,000 claim, Roberts replied with a $10 million counterclaim, to which she rebounded with the $25 million number. Since nothing like that is likely to result, they both wisely stopped there.

But win or lose, the whole thing, still unresolved to my knowledge, will cost both a flying fortune, which McCaw has and Roberts doesn’t.

McCaw is also suing my paper, The Santa Barbara Independent, for copyright infringement related to the possession of copies of two News-Press news stories, neither of which the N-P felt worthwhile publishing but deem worth going to court about. The Indy briefly posted one of them, Scott Hadly‘s news story following the July 6, 2006 newsroom meltdown, when Roberts, myself, and many others quit. Apparently an honest account of the event was too much for the paper to stomach.

At the time Wendy’s suit was filed, Indy publisher Randy Campbell announced, “I would like to assure the powers that be at the News-Press, as well as the community, that it will take more than specious, bullying tactics to silence us at The Independent.”

And let us not forget that McCaw is also suing Susan Paterno, the journalist for the American Journalism Review who was personally sued by the News-Press for her “Santa Barbara Smackdown” article. The News-Press claims libel. This, The Independent has reported, is perhaps the first time that a newspaper publisher ever used a court of law to individually threaten a writer.

If you know a young law school grad looking for work, he or she might want to knock on Wendy McCaw’s door. And if the same kid can throw a baseball 100 miles an hour for strikes or hit, say, 50 home runs a year, see Tommy Lasorda.

(If the same kid happens to be female, organized baseball is not ready for her yet, although the day will surely come. For now, stick to law. Better yet, sue the bastards.)

And wait until next year.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.


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