McCaffery’s Suit Survives First Inky Objections

Seamus McCaffery can proceed with his lawsuit against the Philadelphia Inquirer, a judge ruled this week.

McCaffery, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, is suing — along with his wife — over a 2013 Inky regarding legal “referral” fees she collected. That story led to rules changes at the court, and an FBI investigation, but McCaffery said he did nothing wrong.

The paper’s lawyers this week argued that editors and journalists have the job “to highlight what public officials are doing and let the public make its own determination on the conduct.” McCaffery’s lawyer once again pointed out that then-publisher Bob Hall questioned the worthiness of the story after it was published.

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Dear Inky: I Got It Wrong

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This about sums it up.

I get it wrong sometimes.

I was wrong back in January 2013. At the time, new ownership had taken over at the Inquirer and Daily News — is the ever not the case —and immediately demanded millions  of dollars in wage and benefit cuts from the salaries of  journalists employed by the paper.

It seemed another example of a newspaper trying and failing to cut its way to profiitability, a plan that hadn’t worked at any of the other million or so papers that had been trying it recent years. So I offered a potential way out of the never-ending death spiral:

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Lenfest to Inquirer, Daily News Reporters: “Work Hard But Rest Easy”

Leaders of the Newspaper Guild, the union that represents the journalists of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, had their first formal meeting with new owner Gerry Lenfest on Tuesday. Some developments:

• Lenfest told the journalists he is “committed” to continuing with two papers, meaning the perpetually in danger Daily News can rest easy for the moment.

• He’s considering keeping Philly.com as its own, independent entity with its own identity.

• He expects to have a publisher in place within three months.

• He does not expect to seek any wage cuts from journalists, and may offer a contract longer than two years during the next round of negotiations.

• He buried the hatchet with Bill Ross, the guild’s executive director. The two famously feuded by letter during the Inky’s ownership crisis.

A full memo from the Guild regarding the meeting, after the jump:

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Lawyer: McCaffery Cleared in FBI Probe

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice says the FBI has cleared him of wrongdoing for the activities described in a 2013 Philadelphia Inquirer story at the heart of his lawsuit against the paper.

Seamus McCaffery and his wife, Lise Rapaport, are suing the paper for “false light invasion of privacy,” saying the Inquirer made it look like they’d committed wrongdoing when Rapaport — a sometimes judicial aid to her husband — took hundreds of thousands of dollars in “referral fees” for steering cases to law firms that later appeared  before her husband in court. In a majority of those cases, the Inquirer reported, the firm that paid the fees received a positive vote from McCaffery.

The report resulted in new ethics rules at the court, as well as an FBI probe. During preliminary arguments in the case today, McCaffery’s lawyer, Dion Rassias, said McCaffery had been cleared. The Legal Intelligencer reports:

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Should Philly’s Newspapers Operate as Charity Cases?

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Gerry Lenfest has spent much of the last decade giving his fortune away for worthy causes. So maybe it’s no surprise that when he finally sealed his complete ownership of Interstate General Media this week, Lenfest ended up sounding like Philly’s major newspapers were another one of his philanthropic enterprises

“I’ve given a lot of money away,” he told the Daily News. “But I can’t think of any cause that we support that’s more important than the support of the newspapers.”

Lenfest’s actions also matched the look of a man who isn’t anticipating great profit. He’s setting up a corporation that will continue to oversee the papers “just in case I kick the bucket,” and says he’ll create a board of directors composed of five to seven community leaders. That sounds more like the governance of a trust than a multi-million-dollar business.

All of which raises the question: Why not just follow these ideas to their natural conclusion and formally turn the Inquirer and Daily News into non-profit enterprises?

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Lenfest Appoints Interim Philly.com Editor

Any print devotee who hoped against hope the new ownership of Interstate General Media might let Philly.com whither and die — or at least fade into the background — had better rethink their goals. New owner Gerry Lenfest today appointed an interim executive editor to the website: Mike Topel.

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Lawyer: First Amendment Doesn’t Protect Inquirer

seamus mccaffery

The Inquirer may have the right to report on the actions of public officials, an attorney says in filings against the newspaper, but it doesn’t have the right to mislead readers into believing an official has done something wrong.

Dion Rassias, the attorney for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and McCaffery’s wife, Lise Rapaport, made the argument this week in his latest filings against the newspaper over its 2013 story about referral fees Rapaport earned from law firms that later came before her husband on the bench.

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Drew Katz Finalizes IGM Shares Sale to Gerry Lenfest

Drew Katz, left, son of Lewis Katz, right, walk with philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest to a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Lenfest and businessman Lewis Katz are taking over Philadelphia's two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Drew Katz, left, son of Lewis Katz, right, walk with philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest to a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Lenfest and businessman Lewis Katz are taking over Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It’s final. Drew Katz has sold his shares in Interstate General Media to Gerry Lenfest. And he affirmed Lenfest’s leadership of the company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com on his way out.

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Drew Katz Still Plans to Sell IGM Shares

This just in: Drew Katz still plans to sell his shares of the Inquirer and its sister news organizations to Gerry Lenfest.

If the news has a slight “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead” quality to it — Katz originally announced he was selling his ownership stake last week — there is good reason for the update: Reports this week suggested the sale had not closed, which in turn sparked some hopes at the papers that Katz was rethinking the sale and might stay a member of the ownership group after all.

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