Bill Marimow Is Back. UPDATE: Norcross to Appeal.

Judge says he should be reinstated at the helm of the Inquirer immediately. Read her decision.

And just like that, Bill Marimow — the man whose October firing launched a thousand lawsuits and leaked emails — has been ordered back to his job by Judge Patricia McInerney, effective now.

According to CBS3’s Steve Tawa:

Judge Patricia McInerney, who heard four days of arguments and testimony in her courtroom, and even tried to broker settlement talks in her chambers, has ordered the bickering owners to give Bill Marimow his old job back.

This brings to a close one major battle in a contentious ownership struggle between Lewis Katz and George Norcross. It is unlikely, however, that this will be the last we’ll hear of sparring between the two members of the ownership group’s management committee*. The testimony got nasty and personal. As fellow owner H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest said, “We can’t go on this way.”

As to where this leaves Interstate General Media, the company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News and, our Steve Volk said it best:

If [attorney Richard] Sprague can convince a judge that Hall was not authorized to fire Marimow without Katz’s approval, Bill Marimow could plop right back down in his office chair by the end of the week, and the city’s largest media enterprise will be right back where it started — led, if that’s an appropriate term, by a two-man committee that must but can’t agree.

*UPDATE: According to a statement just released by Dan Fee, spokesman for Norcross’s majority faction of owners, those owners are planning an appeal:

Interstate General Media and General American Holdings, representing George E. Norcross, III, will be filing an appeal on an expedited basis of today’s decision to reinstate Bill Marimow.

The decision to return Marimow to the Inquirer as a lame duck editor –his contract ends April 30th – will have the effect of risking chaos in the company, restoring an editor who consistently resisted needed changes to the paper and who is in open conflict with the Publisher, Bob Hall, who the court decreed will remain in his position. The ruling ensures that every newsroom decision will require the joint agreement of the Managing Members, subjecting the company to paralysis.

Minority owner Lewis Katz, who brought the lawsuit, testified under oath that he believed it appropriate for an owner to be able to influence the operations of the newsroom, including the hiring and firing of journalists, with no set standards for how far or how often they can reach in to influence coverage. That would render the non-interference pledge meaningless because the power to fire is the power to influence coverage. Given that Nancy Phillips, Katz’ girlfriend, testified under oath that she created an “official version” of how Marimow was hired, it is difficult to understand how they can continue to assert they are protecting the ‘integrity’ of

We believe today’s decision is wrong and will harm the journalistic independence and operations of the newsroom. In newspapers across the country, it is the Publisher who has the right to make personnel decisions, including the hiring and firing of the editor as Publisher Bob Hall did when he removed Bill Marimow as editor of the Inquirer. The court affirmed that Hall was the Publisher and his authority to remove Marimow should have likewise been affirmed.”

Read Judge McInerney’s decision below: