Saturday, November 13, 1999

Star-Bulletin closing after 117 years

ACLU says owners’
First Amendment
rights not violated by
court’s injunction

Hawaii's American Civil Liberties
Union backs the Star-Bulletin's
operation, spurning
owners' claims

By Crystal Kua


The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has rejected claims by the owners of Honolulu's two daily newspapers that a court order that blocked the closing of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin violates the First Amendment.

"The ACLU, which has a vital interest in protecting the First Amendment rights of all Americans, does not oppose the federal court's decision compelling the continued operation of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin," ACLU Executive Director Vanessa Chong said yesterday.

"The First Amendment rights of the owners of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper have not been violated by a recent court injunction."

The owners of the Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser are arguing that U.S. District Judge Alan Kay's order violates freedom-of-the-press rights because it requires a newspaper to publish against the paper's wishes.

Kay on Oct. 13 issued a preliminary injunction that stopped the announced Oct. 30 shutdown of the Star-Bulletin after the state attorney general's office filed a lawsuit raising antitrust questions.

The owners' appeal of the injunction will be forwarded to a three-judge motions panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals next week, said Mark Mendenhall, public information officer for the court. A decision could be made on the same day or take a few days, he said.

The appeal to the San Francisco-based court was made by Gannett Pacific Corp., owner of the Advertiser, and Liberty Newspapers LP, owner of the Star-Bulletin. Final briefs were filed Wednesday.

Judges are assigned to the motions panel through rotation each month.

An exact day the case will be considered, or the names of the judges deciding it, are not public information, according to Mendenhall.

The spokesman said staff attorneys prepare cases for review by the judges.

"It is the court staff attorneys who have reviewed all the papers in the case from the get-go," Mendenhall said. "They would have spent a lot of time on the cases, analyzing and digesting and getting the nub." Following a presentation, the judges will "look through all of the stuff. They'll ask a gazillion questions of the staff attorney."

With most motions, decisions can be made on the same day, he said. "This one will probably take a little longer," said Mendenhall, who speculated a decision could be reached after a day or two.

Mendenhall said thousands of motions are filed with the court each year, and this case is being scheduled for consideration ahead of others.

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