The Deseret News has no business involving itself in the lawsuit between the owner and managers of the Salt Lake Tribune, attorneys for the managers wrote in documents filed in federal court Wednesday.
The Deseret News' interest in the case reveals legal strategy, the attorneys told U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart, who is hearing the case.
MediaNews Group, which owns the Tribune's holding company, and the Deseret News have "joined forces to engage in a shameless and transparent effort to forum-shop this case out of federal court and into state court," the managers said.
But the Desert News — which earlier this month asked to be named as a defendant in the managers' suit against MediaNews and the newspaper's former owner, AT&T Corp. — claims it is only defending itself.
"We tried to stay out of this," Deseret News publisher Jim Wall said Thursday. "But if someone changes the rules, you have to make different decisions."
In a recent amendment to their original complaint, the Tribune managers asked for a judge's declaration that they have the right to purchase the newspaper from MediaNews "free and clear of any liens, claims and encumbrances" from the Desert News.
The Deseret News insists that a joint operating agreement between the two newspapers gives it the right to veto a future sale of the Tribune, and that is why it is an "indispensable party" to the federal case.
"It was only after (the managers) filed their final form of the second amended complaint that we saw the Deseret News was so obviously a part of it," Wall said.
The Deseret News is asking Stewart both to add it to the case and then dismiss the lawsuit entirely because actions between parties from the same state are generally heard in state, not federal, court.
The Deseret News filed its own lawsuit in 2nd District Court in Davis County in April, alleging the Tribune has tried to stifle healthy competition between the two newspapers and thwart the Deseret News' efforts to publish in the morning instead of the afternoon.
The Tribune managers said Wednesday the Deseret News' interest in the federal case is merely an effort to push all legal action into state court, a "deliberate attempt to manipulate the judicial process."
But attorneys for the Deseret News say state court will provide a better forum for the dispute.
"All of the parties now present in the federal court are subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the state of Utah and could be joined," Deseret News attorneys said earlier this month.
Second District Judge Jon Memmott is expected to rule soon on another venue issue — whether the state action should be heard in Davis or Salt Lake County.
The Tribune managers say the case should be heard in Salt Lake County because that is the newspapers' principal place of business.
The Deseret News argues the newspapers' "primary market area" also includes Davis, Summit, Tooele and Wasatch counties and Davis County is the "most neutral" place for the case because there is a roughly 50-50 split of readership there.