New Date To Be Set April 29
FOX PLEADS FOR A SECOND CONTINUANCE,
NEW JUDGE AGREES TO DELAY TRIAL AGAIN
By STEVE WILSON
TAMPA (APRIL 16, 1999) – Claiming the defendants needed more time to prepare for a trial that should not be conducted during a television ratings month, lawyers for Fox Television have obtained their second delay in the case of this reporter and Jane Akre versus WTVT. A new date is expected to be set at the April 29 hearing before Judge Gaspar Ficarotta who will now preside over the trial following a normal judicial rotation which has sent Judge Robert Bonanno to another court division.
The defendants were not as fortunate on their other motions. The judge refused a request to stop or to limit this reporters ability to continue to take depositions in the case and he denied another motion for a protective order to block the deposition of Fox attorney Patricia Anderson.
The delay was opposed by this reporter who is representing himself in the action. Attorneys representing co-plaintiff Jane Akre did not oppose a reasonable delay but have made it clear they want the trial re-set for the earliest possible date.
"Delay is the defendant's best friend," said Jane Akre after the hearing. "When Judge Bonanno granted the last delay, he made it clear the other side should prepared for trial May 10. Instead, they apparently counted on the goodwill of the new judge they knew was coming. In a year, they've conducted just four depositions. It's time to stop stalling and let a jury decide this case."
Defendants with deep pockets frequently adopt a delay strategy in hopes the other side will run out of resources or lose its resolve to continue to pursue its claim. In this case, Fox has hired lawfirms in several states to block the plaintiffs' efforts to conduct depositions of Fox executives and others. One knowledgeable source familiar with the case has put the defense costs at $1 million so far.
Fox attorney Patricia Anderson filed papers with the court claiming misconduct on the part of this reporter as he has pursued more than 30 depositions from various witnesses in the case. She told the court that dealing with this reporter as a pro se plaintiff has been "a nightmare."
Judge Ficarottta rejected her plea that the judge block any further depositions, including Anderson's own which was scheduled for the following day. Anderson claimed she never even knew the plaintiffs were employed by Fox until the day they were fired when she claims she was hired to represent the station.
This reporter told the judge despite Anderson's sworn claims, there is evidence to the contrary which the plaintiff was entitled to discover in a deposition. Judge Ficarotta suggested the litigants could "try to work it out" or, otherwise, the deposition was scheduled to go forward. He warned both sides he would not be hesitant to invoke sanctions if Anderson failed to attend or if the deposition did not go forward properly.
Editor's note: The deposition did proceed and, among other things, produced evidence of the involvement of President Clinton's personal attorney, David Kendall, who is now representing Fox in this matter. (see separate story)