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Thursday, January 13, 2000



Star-Bulletin closing after 117 years

Papers to ask suit be dropped

A deal to close the Bulletin expired,
so a trial is not needed,
attorneys will say

By Debra Barayuga
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Attorneys for owners of Honolulu's two major daily newspapers are expected to file a motion in a few weeks to dismiss the state's lawsuit to prevent the shutdown of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

The attorneys for Gannett Pacific Corp., the owner of the Honolulu Advertiser, and Liberty Newspapers, owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, met today with U.S. Magistrate Barry Kurren and attorneys for the state to discuss the trial, scheduled to begin Sept. 19.

The agreement for Gannett to buy out the remainder of the Star-Bulletin's contract to jointly publish both papers expired Dec. 23.

"My understanding is, it (the agreement to end the papers' Joint Operating Agreement) was not extended, and they're going to make a motion to dismiss the suit based on that," said Jim Bickerton, attorney for Save Our Star-Bulletin, a private citizens group whose separate suit against the newspapers was consolidated with the state's suit.

Bickerton, who attended today's meeting, said Save Our Star-Bulletin would oppose the motion to end the lawsuit.

While the agreement did not specifically call for the Star-Bulletin to shut down, it was a "manifestation of a broader conspiracy" to close the afternoon paper, and therefore the suit is not moot, Bickerton said.

Attorneys for Gannett and Liberty Newspapers could not be reached for comment.

State Deputy Attorney General Jack Rosenzweig said the state will examine the newspapers' motion after it is filed and will respond at that time.

The state and SOS contend that the agreement to close the paper for a payment violates state and federal antitrust laws.

A preliminary injunction barring the Star-Bulletin's closure is in place and was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The newspapers argue that the court does not have the authority to interfere in the deal and that the injunction violates the owners' constitutional rights by forcing them to publish against their wishes.



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