After 10 Toledo police officers and two civilians sued The Blade over a 1990 investigative series that probed into police misconduct, the lawsuit was dismissed on the grounds that the newspaper accurately reported the contents of public records.
The Blade later sought, and won, a further court ruling saying it was entitled to attorney fees for defending itself after that dismissal was appealed. Now, the 6th District Court of Appeals has reversed that decision, saying The Blade should pick up its $163,301 legal tab.
In a 21-page ruling filed recently, the appeals court ruled that Napoleon attorney George C. Rogers, who represented the police officers in the case, did not act “frivolously” and therefore attorney fees could not be awarded in the case.
“We’re unhappy with the decision,” said David Waterman, outside counsel to Block Communications, Inc., the parent company of The Blade. “We disagree with the decision, and we are still reviewing it and discussing it with representatives of The Blade.”
Mr. Waterman said attorneys are evaluating whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Ohio or file a motion for reconsideration with the 6th District Court of Appeals.
The appeals court leaned heavily on a 1999 case called Mueller v. City of Vandalia in determining Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Stacy Cook had erred in awarding attorney fees to The Blade for appeals filed by Mr. Rogers in the appeals court, the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Paul Bonfiglio, the attorney who represented The Blade in the appeal, said he had not reviewed the decision thoroughly and declined to comment on what he deemed “pending litigation.”