Judge Orders 2 Papers to Remove Stories from Web Sites

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A judge has ordered two Kansas City newspapers to
remove articles about an area utility from their Web sites and temporarily barred the papers from publishing the story.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Kelly Moorhouse issued the temporary restraining order Friday against The Kansas City Star, a daily, and The Pitch, a weekly alternative newspaper that publishes on Thursdays.

The judge also ordered the papers to remove articles about the Board of Public Utilities of Kansas City, Kan., from their Web sites. Both papers had posted the stories Friday before the order but removed the articles by Saturday morning.

Both papers prepared stories about the operations at the BPU based on a confidential document they received. The document was prepared by Stanley Reigel, a Stinson Morrison Hecker attorney working for the utility.

The judge’s order said the document was privileged legal communication and BPU would be “irreparably harmed” if the newspapers didn’t remove the articles from their Web sites.

Moorhouse said the BPU had “a protected interest in its attorney-client privileged information and monetary damages which might result from a publication of such information would be difficult or impossible to measure in
money.”

Editors from both papers said they would appeal the order.

Mark Zieman, editor and vice president of the Star, said the public has the right to know about the operations of local utilities.

“To have a published story pulled from our Web site is unprecedented and unbelievable,” said Zieman. “When justice prevails, we will publish our findings again.”

C.J. Janovy, editor of The Pitch, said she was “appalled” by the order and the paper planned to appeal.

Sam Colville, the Star’s attorney, said the injunction violated the constitutional rights of the media and also restricted the public’s right to be informed.

“Every moment The Star is restrained constitutes further damage to the constitutional rights of each of us,” Colville said.

A message left with the BPU by The Associated Press Saturday was not immediately returned.

Moorhouse scheduled a hearing in the matter for 9:30 a.m. next Friday, although the Star said its attorney would try to seek an expedited hearing.

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