The 4th Appellate District has reinstated the lawsuit that former Union-Tribune editorial cartoonist Steve Kelley filed against the U-T.
The suit was thrown out by Superior Court Judge Jay Bloom in November of 2009. Kelley had been fired by the U-T. He and Steve Breen, who replaced him, planned to do a cartoon called Dustin. But Breen backed out. Kelley charged that the U-T interfered with the contract he had with Breen.
There were some very interesting -- to say the least -- developments in the case. For example, Breen testified that he had met with his editor, Bill Osborne; Breen remembered specific details of that conversation. Slightly more than a month later, the U-T's law firm stated that Breen no longer remembered the conversation. Similarly, Breen testified under oath about a meeting with Karin Winner, then editor. However, Breen later said that he had no memory of that meeting.
A vice president of the syndicate that was to market Dustin said that Breen told him that his job was "definitely threatened" if he went ahead with the strip. Breen told the syndicate VP that he would lose his job if he did the strip with Kelley. But such events seemingly did not sway the judge. Hmm.
Kelley filed on three counts: intentional interference with contractual relations; intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and unfair competition. The appellate court said that Bloom erred in tossing out the claim of interference with contractual relations. The other two decisions can stand. The case now goes back to trial.
Kelley joined with another cartoonist in putting out the Dustin. It now runs in more than 300 papers and won the 2011 Reuben Award for best newspaper cartoon. However, Kelley's attorney, Bob Gaglione, says it would be doing much better if it could have been launched when Kelley and Breen first planned it years ago.