On Tuesday, Judge Edward Rafeedie denied a motion by the Santa Barbara News-Press to delay the start of their federal copyright infringement trial against The Santa Barbara Independent.

The daily wanted more time to prepare for their case and determine what evidence they could take from The Indy, requesting a start date of the jury trial no sooner than late March 2008. But Judge Rafeedie determined that the News-Press‘ attorneys failed to show good cause, and denied their request with no further explanation.

Specifically, the News-Press‘ attorneys requested an extension because they are hoping to compel The Indy‘s executive editor Nick Welsh to reveal his sources. This may be the first time ever that one newspaper has tried to get another newspaper’s reporter to divulge his or her sources, as confidentiality of sources is a privilege that’s usually treated as sacrosanct in the profession of journalism.

The Indy‘s attorneys insinuated as much in their argument to deny the delay, explaining that the News-Press is “watching the legal fees needlessly escalate.” Given that the News-Press‘s attorney said in court that the paper’s desire is solely “to punish” The Independent, the weekly’s attorneys suggest that the proposed delay would perhaps be a means of doing so, due to the growing attorney’s fees.

As well, The Indy‘s attorneys posited that this delay may just be a ploy for the daily’s legal squad to get more information out of The Indy to strengthen several other legal squabbles the News-Press is embroiled in. Those cases include an arbitration case against former editor Jerry Roberts, an attack on American Journalism Review correspondent Susan Paterno (another apparent first in journalism, where one newspaper sues an individual reporter), the ongoing battle against the newsroom’s unionization, and the fight against the feds who have argued that the newspaper broke many federal labor laws.

Meanwhile, the News-Press has not been forthcoming with much of the evidence requested by The Independent. (In that regard, the weekly’s attorneys are in the process of filing a motion to compel the daily to respond to evidence requests that its attorneys have so far rejected.)

Those arguments proved persuasive enough to the judge, and he denied the News-Press‘ motion. A mandatory settlement conference between the two newspapers will soon be scheduled before the January 29 jury trial begins.


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