In reference to Hearst Communications v. Seattle Times Co., in Superior Court in and for the County of King, the following is excerpted from a July 25 letter from Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen to Hearst Corp. President and CEO Victor Ganzi, regarding the Hearst-owned Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the two papers' joint operating agreement (JOA). In the letter, the Times Co. says Hearst's lawsuitwhich disputes Times Co. interpretation of the JOA and seeks to halt an 18-month negotiation period for closure of the P-Iitself constitutes "improper conduct" and a "material breach" of the JOA. We join Blethen's letter already in progress: " . . . In late 2002 and early 2003 we negotiated with you in good faith for an extended period to find a solution to the current financial problems for [the] Seattle Times Company that would have permitted the JOA to continue as a two-newspaper enterprise. . . . As we disclosed to you, we currently project substantial and continuing losses for The Seattle Times newspaper every year for the remainder of this decade. Our final proposal to you . . . to simply return to the original agreed [60-40] split of net revenues . . . would have brought the Times essentially to break-even during this decade. That proposal would have provided the Times with enough to survive, but without any return on investment for the family and other shareholders. . . . Your rejection of this arrangement signaled to us the reality that the Blethen family faces the danger that your superior financial resources will be applied to 'bleed' the family and inflict financial damage upon the Times. . . . In light of the foregoing, we will be prepared to amend our pleadings in the ongoing litigation to include a claim for termination of the JOA based on your material breach [of the JOA contract], and take other action based upon that material breach, if Hearst
again seeks, supports, or fails actively to oppose any stoppage of the 18-month period" ending Oct. 29, 2004, during which the two parties are supposed to negotiate closure of the P-I. " . . . Very truly yours, Frank A. Blethen."
So. Let's review. Party A sues Party B, claiming Party B is improperly enforcing a contract. Party B argues that, under that very contract, Party A may not sue Party B. Can either or both parties' lawyers still make $350 an hour if, as Party B claims, there can be no litigation over control of a federally blessed legal monopoly? And if not, would the savings in legal expenses be enough to keep both parties in business? CHUCK TAYLOR
Former state Public Lands Commissioner Jennifer Belcher is selling her house in Olympia and moving to West Virginia. She says she wants to be near her parents andat age 60apply to law school there. You would think she'd be a shoo-in, but she says she'll have to sell herself. Turns out Belcher never got a B.A. The environmentalistBelcher served as the commissioner from 1993 to 2001, generating controversy by slowing timber harvests on state landsgot her start in political life by being a secretary in the West Virginia governor's office in the late 1960s. She moved with her boss to the Washington governor's office under Dan Evans, where she handled the mail and emerged as a political figure in her own right by fighting for better conditions for women in the workplace and in state government. NINA SHAPIRO