The state attorney general's office is "breaking new legal ground" in the case to block the shutdown of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, according to Deputy Attorney General Jack A. Rosenzweig.
"We want to do so on a full record," Rosenzweig said yesterday.
Under scheduling made yesterday, the earliest a federal court judge will hear the state's arguments for a permanent injunction to keep the Star-Bulletin open is Sept. 19, 2000.
U.S. District Court Judge Alan C. Kay last month issued a preliminary injunction stopping the planned Oct. 30 closure after the state filed suit against Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership, owner of the Star-Bulletin, and Gannett Pacific Corp., owner of the Honolulu Advertiser.
Kay said he believed the state would likely succeed on the merits of its case.
The newspaper owners appealed Kay's order to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a three-judge panel is expected to rule in mid-November.
While the 9th Circuit's decision is pending, the state intends to proceed with discovery in an orderly fashion, said Deputy Attorney General Rodney Kimura.
The state's suit argues that the newspaper owners' plans to end a 1993 joint operating agreement and cease publication of the Star-Bulletin violates state and federal antitrust laws.
Under the termination agreement, Liberty would receive $26.5 million.
The case raises many issues and given the extent of discovery required, the state felt it would be able to go to trial in September or October, Kimura said.
The trial has been scheduled for a date far sooner than normal, said John R. Lacy, attorney for Gannett and the Hawaii Newspaper Agency, which was formed to carry out the newspapers' joint operating agreement.
"Obviously, we are hopeful the 9th Circuit will rule in our favor and trial won't be necessary," he said.
Gannett anticipates filing additional arguments to the federal appeals court by a Wednesday deadline. The state this week urged the 9th Circuit to affirm Judge Kay's order.
If the 9th Circuit upholds the lower court's ruling, Gannett "absolutely" intends to go to trial, Lacy said.
The U.S. Justice Department also this week filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief urging the 9th Circuit to uphold the preliminary injunction until serious antitrust questions are resolved.
The Justice Department is currently investigating whether the agreement to shutdown the Star-Bulletin violates antitrust laws.
The federal appeals court has urged the U.S. District Court here to expedite its handling of the permanent injunction.
Meanwhile, the federal court in Honolulu is scheduled on Dec. 13 to hear Gannett's motion to dismiss the state's suit.
Liberty Newspapers and the Hawaii Newspaper Agency have joined in that motion.
Liberty also has filed a motion to dismiss a suit against the newspaper owners by a private citizens group, Save Our Star-Bulletin. That motion will also be heard Dec. 13. A trial date for that suit has not been set.
Hawaii RepublicanBy Harold Morse
Party supports saving
Hawaii Republican Chairwoman Linda Lingle and the state GOP have given support to a citizens group trying to prevent the shutdown of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
"I came out today to show my support for the Save Our Star-Bulletin organization and to express the official position of the Hawaii Republican Party that the preliminary injunction that (U.S. District Judge Alan Kay) granted should stay in effect until all the issues are fully addressed in court," Lingle said yesterday outside the News Building.
The case should be heard on its merits, she added.
Richard Port, former chairman of the Hawaii Democratic Party and acting as a spokesman for Save Our Star-Bulletin, was there to praise Lingle's actions.
"We're very pleased that the chairman of the Republican Party -- Linda Lingle -- has been so open in her support," Port said. "The entire community has come together to lend their support in the belief that Hawaii as a great state needs two statewide newspapers."
Lingle called the planned shutdown a violation of the spirit of the Newspaper Preservation Act.
"This is such an important issue for the community," she said. "As the chairman of the Republican Party, my mission is to establish two political voices in our state -- to have two strong political parties -- and this situation with the newspapers is another version of that same situation where we feel it's better for the community to have two strong voices, rather than just one."
Bulletin closing archive