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Judge reverses restraint over name, permits newspaper to publish

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         KENTUCKY         Prior Restraints         Jun 20, 2002    

Judge reverses restraint over name, permits newspaper to publish

  • At a contempt hearing, the local politician who legally owns the name “Mountain Citizen Inc.” dropped his request for a restraining order, but the judge could still penalize the newspaper’s editor, publisher and owner.

In what was scheduled to be a contempt hearing June 19, an eastern Kentucky judge gave a newspaper the right to publish under the name it has used for years.

“I didn’t know what to expect when going to court, but I’m just glad we’re not in jail,” said Gary Ball, editor of the Inez, Ky., Mountain Citizen, which has published five weekly editions since issued a restraining order against using the name.

The name “Mountain Citizen, Inc.” was acquired by a local water official, who had been the subject of critical news stories, after he discovered that the incorporation papers lapsed. The paper refused to stop publishing when Marin County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Sparks forbade it to use the name May 21. Expected to file an extended request for restraint Wednesday, counsel for former Water Board Chairman and local Republican Party President John Triplett instead withdrew the motion for an order permanently barring the paper from using the name, and Sparks gave the paper permission to publish.

Ball, along with Owner Lisa Stayton and Publisher Roger Smith, could still face a fine or jail time for contempt of court. Sparks could reach a decision as soon as today.

Stayton said she felt the paper did not violate the restraining order, because the Mountain Citizen, in its last few editions, published a notice explaining they are not affiliated with the “Inc.” name Triplett filed for from the state. And in court Wednesday Ball said he was just doing his job by continuing to put out a paper, especially the night of May 21 when he was faxed the restraining order just hours before deadline.

Another distinction needs to be made in this case, the paper’s staff had formerly argued: because the weekly’s name is widely recognizable, the case of trademark should be heard in a federal court.

Although John Triplett himself would not comment on his court actions against the paper or his acquisition of the name, his daughter Regena Triplett — also his attorney — said her father acquired the name for reasons other than to stop the publication of critical stories.

“He may be deliberating over whether to get into the communications field, whether that may be a written form, or radio or cable TV, and it’s difficult to get into a market with more than one media using the same name,” she said.

(New Wave Communications Inc. v. Stayton; Media counsel: David Fleenor, Lexington) CL

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© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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