Clark County District Judge Timothy Williams on Wednesday stayed heated litigation over a 30-year joint operating agreement between the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun.
The Review-Journal had moved to stay the entire case until key issues in a federal antitrust lawsuit filed by the Sun are argued.
“Judge Williams has placed the state court case on hold until a federal court resolves matters that may impact the state case,” said Ben Lipman, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel for the Review-Journal.
Lipman said the judge thwarted the Sun’s efforts for a partial stay to bar the Review-Journal from presenting its defenses to the Sun’s “meritless claims” in the case.
“The judge rightfully saw through the Sun’s transparent attempts to undermine the Review-Journal’s due process rights and ruled that if the Sun wants to delay the Review-Journal from pursuing its claims and defending itself, the Sun has to wait, as well,” he said.
In its federal lawsuit, the Sun accuses the Review-Journal of trying to run it out of business. The suit seeks to block the Review-Journal’s push in the state case to end the JOA. The Review-Journal has moved to dismiss the federal lawsuit, arguing the Sun’s antitrust claims are false and the terms of the JOA are not enforceable.
Following a hearing Wednesday, Williams declined to include a July arbitrator’s judgment in his stay, concluding that part of the case has been resolved.
“We’re extremely pleased with the outcome,” Sun lawyer Leif Reid said after the hearing. “We look forward to the judge’s confirmation of the arbitration award, and we look forward to our day in federal court.”
Williams later filed a written order declining each party’s request to overturn portions of the arbitrator’s decision, leaving it intact.
The Review-Journal argues in court papers in the state case that the Sun breached its responsibilities and fails to abide by a JOA requirement to “preserve high standards of newspaper quality.”
The newspaper also alleges that the Sun withholds local news content in favor of wire service stories and uses its print edition to drive readers away from the companies’ joint print product and to the Sun’s website instead.
Each news organization’s website operates outside the joint operating agreement.
The Sun, which denies the Review-Journal’s allegations, filed a complaint against the Review-Journal in state court in 2018 that raised concerns about the distribution of profits under the JOA and how the Sun is promoted in the joint newspaper.
The parties entered a JOA in 1989 under the U.S. Newspaper Preservation Act to keep the Sun afloat and preserve its presence in Southern Nevada. The two newspapers merged their business operations but remained independent editorially.
For the next 16 years, the Review-Journal printed the Sun as an afternoon newspaper. Then, in a new joint operating arrangement in 2005, the Sun agreed to be distributed as a section in the morning Review-Journal. That agreement is scheduled to expire in 2040.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.