THERE IS "simply no evidence" that the Inquirer is harmed by the recent return of editor Bill Marimow, two of the newspaper's owners told the state Superior Court yesterday.

Lewis Katz and H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest were responding to a request last week for an expedited appeal by George Norcross III and three other investors in the company that owns the Daily News, Inquirer and

That appeal claimed that the "editorial and journalistic independence" of the paper is at stake.

Norcross seeks to overturn a Nov. 22 ruling by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Patricia McInerney, who issued an injunction reinstating Marimow at the request of Katz and Lenfest.

Marimow was fired by publisher Robert J. Hall on Oct. 7.

Katz and Lenfest claim that Hall acted at Norcross' direction.

Katz testified in court last month that he and Norcross serve as a two-man management committee for the media properties and must jointly agree on major business decisions such as the hiring and firing of Marimow. Dan Fee, a spokesman for the Norcross faction, said in a statement in response to yesterday's filing that the ability to hire and fire an editor could influence the newspaper's content.

"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," Fee said.

The filing claims that the real harm to the company would have come if the lower court had not stopped "Norcross' campaign to control the operations of the Philadelphia Inquirer and to run roughshod over the protections against such unilateral control that were intentionally included" in the company's bylaws.

The Norcross faction's appeal claimed that forcing Hall to work with Marimow "creates an untenable and unworkable situation."

Katz and Lenfest, in yesterday's filing, said there is no evidence to support that claim. They cited testimony Hall gave last month in which he "admitted that he respects Marimow as a person and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and that he harbors no animosity toward Marimow."