Judge Recuses Herself From ‘Salt Lake Tribune’ Ownership Case

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One week after an appeals case sent the Salt Lake Tribune ownership case back to her, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell has removed herself from it.

Campbell filed the notice of recusal Tuesday without giving a reason for her decision.

On July 19, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Campbell could review the $355.5 million price set for the newspaper by a series of appraisals.

Campbell previously had refused, saying the court had no authority to second-guess appraisals that set a price that the McCarthey family called inflated and refused to pay to get back the newspaper. The family traces part-ownership of the paper back nearly a century.

The McCarthey family had parted with the Tribune after other shareholders persuaded it to merge the newspaper with cable-television giant TCI in a 1997 stock swap. The family maintained a repurchase option.

AT&T Inc. acquired TCI in 1999 and sold the Tribune for $200 million to Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc. two years later.

Phil McCarthey, chairman of the family’s management group, said he was not surprised that Campbell stepped away.

“I believe this means that after 5 1/2 years we still have many more years of litigation ahead of us. But we are prepared to go forward,” McCarthey said Wednesday.

Dean Singleton, chief executive of Media-News and Tribune publisher, declined to comment, the newspaper said.

This is the second time Campbell has recused herself. She stepped down in 2001 without explanation. It was widely believed she did so because her husband was affiliated with a law firm that represented the Deseret Morning News in a bid to intervene in the case.

The Tribune case was assigned to Judge David Sam, who declined to accept it. Next, it went to chief Judge Dee Benson, who is the brother of Deseret Morning News columnist Lee Benson and who also turned it down.

Judge Ted Stewart then ran the case until last year, when he recused himself. Campbell took up the case again because the issue that led to her earlier recusal no longer applied.

With Campbell’s latest recusal, the case has been reassigned to Benson. It is not known if he will keep it.

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