limitations on what evidence and what witnesses
the jury will be allowed to hear.
Two of Fox's most
important challenges--efforts to block the testimony of expert witnesses
Walter Cronkite and Ralph Nader--were not completed by the defense team
until late yesterday. (Watch here for detailed stories coming soon on
Judge Steinberg also
notified both sides that although he hopes to begin the trial June 12 as
scheduled, a two-week trial is scheduled to begin the preceding
Monday. If that case does not settle, Steinberg indicated there
could be a one-week delay in the start of the Fox trial.
In the only matter that was
decided today, Fox put forth strenuous objections to having to provide the
testimony of Fox Television Stations President Mitchell Stern sooner than the
usual 30-days allotted for replies to written interrogatories.
Fox and its lawyers in
Washington, Florida and California have all worked
hard to block Stern's deposition, even to the extent of providing a a California
court with sworn testimony that the executive knows nothing of the details
at the heart of the Florida lawsuit.
After the testimony of several
others, including one of the company's own lawyers, clearly contradicted that
Steve Wilson asked the Florida court last month to compel Stern's appearance at a
videotaped deposition. Wilson argued that even though Stern may be a California
resident, he is the president of the defendant corporation, New World
Communications of Tampa which holds the license for WTVT and is under the
jurisdiciation of the Florida court for that reason.
Judge Steinberg ruled that
Stern should first be compelled to answer written questions and requests
for certain admissions about the case. Steinberg made it clear that
if those replies were not responsive, the judge would entertain another
motion to compel the company president to personally appear for
Those written questions
were served on Stern May 3. Since then, Fox lawyer McDaniels has
repeatedly ignored requests for a speedy response, prompting today's
motion to the court to order the Defendant to respond sooner.
Wilson and Akre lawyer John
Chamblee told the court that if the answers are not received under just a
few days before the trial and they are not responsive, there would be
precious little time to arrange for the face-to-face deposition.
"I don't want to get into
early June and find we have to seek a deposition only to hear that Mr.
Stern is too busy or unavailable at that time," Wilson told the
McDaniels argued that he is not
scheduled to meet with Stern until next week and it would be a burden to
have to respond sooner than the 30-day deadline imposed by the Rules of
"If we have to wait until
early June and if your Honor agrees then that we do need to take a
deposition, I would like the court to make it clear that it will happen
before the start of trial," Wilson countered.
The judge, while not agreeing
to shorten the time for the responses, did make it clear that such a
deposition, if necessary, should be conducted before June 12.
McDaniels said it was his "fondest hope" that the answers Stern
will provide will avoid the need for any further testimony from him.