The two Inquirer co-owners who last month won a legal battle to reinstate editor William K. Marimow told an appeals court Tuesday there is sufficient evidence to support the ruling and no reason to grant their rivals' request for a speedy review of that decision.
"There is simply no evidence that harm, let alone the 'serious harm' that appellants claim, would befall the parties should this appeal proceed in accordance with this court's standard schedule," says the 22-page filing by lawyers for Lewis Katz and H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest.
On Nov. 26, the rival group, headed by co-owner George E. Norcross III, asked Superior Court to overturn the preliminary injunction issued by Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia A. McInerney that reinstated Marimow.
McInerney found that Marimow's Oct. 7 firing violated the partners' contract because Katz had not approved the editor's ouster.
Under their partnership agreement, Katz and Norcross were to oversee major business decisions for the paper and its parent company, Interstate General Media. Both sides have disputed what that authority entails.
Lawyers for Norcross and publisher Robert J. Hall argued that McInerney misinterpreted the law and the owners' agreement. Their appeal also says Marimow's return "endangers the paper's survival" and has created an "untenable" situation by forcing Hall, who fired Marimow, to continue working with a subordinate with whom he is at odds.
In their reply, Katz and Lenfest's lawyers contend that the editor and publisher were able to work together for 18 months even though Hall opposed Marimow's hiring, and that The Inquirer's paid circulation rose during that span.
They also argued that McInerney's order should be upheld because it "is well supported by record evidence," which they promised to detail in a subsequent filing. But the lawyers said the company's management committee, composed of Katz and Norcross, had hired Marimow in the first place and thus had control over his fate.
It's unclear when the Superior Court will rule on the appeal.
The firing brought to light a simmering feud between Katz and Norcross over the direction of IGM, which also owns the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com.
Hall said he dismissed Marimow because the editor had resisted changes in the newspaper's approach and design suggested by market research, and because Marimow refused to fire five newsroom managers Hall wanted removed.
Lawyers for the Norcross faction argue that Katz's opposition amounted to newsroom meddling. They say McInerney ignored provisions in the partnership agreement barring owners from influencing the journalistic policies and decisions of the company.
McInerney said that although the partnership agreement was ambiguous, in practice the owners had treated decisions such as hiring or firing the editor as "business or operational" in nature rather than journalistic.
Late Tuesday, a spokesman for Hall, Norcross, and three other owners issued a statement asserting that the latest filing had misrepresented the evidence and the dispute. "We continue to believe the only way to ensure the independence of the newsroom is to give the publisher, and not any member of the ownership group, the ability to make hiring and firing decisions, including the firing of The Inquirer's editor," said the statement from Dan Fee.