Thane Ritchie just got a little poorer in the Tom Petters case.
Ritchie — the Chicago investor who’s mad at Minnesota courts, court-appointed receivers and the Star Tribune for not getting more of his Petters investment back — got slapped down hard in Hennepin County District Court Thursday. Judge Tanya Bransford not only tossed Ritchie’s lawsuit against the Star Tribune for canceling a 15-part ad series, she ordered Ritchie (technically, the Ritchie-funded “Stop the Petters Scam Foundation”) to pay the Strib’s court costs.
Bransford — terming the lawsuit “frivolous” — granted the Strib’s “motion on the pleadings.” That means Ritchie’s legal eagles (including former U.S. Sen. Dean Barkley) won’t get to depose ex-Sen. Norm Coleman, current Sen. Amy Klobuchar, ex-U.S. Attorney and Petters receiver Doug Kelley, and other notables in a fishing mission to find out who “killed” the ad campaign. The newspaper has only said the ads, which increasingly leveled accusations, were “not acceptable.”
I’ve called this a “bogus, dangerous” lawsuit because a rich guy was trying to bleed a media enterprise that was well within its rights to cancel the campaign. With the media sector financially weakened, these sorts of suits can bum-rush justice even if they’re a joke, because not every media outlet can afford to defend itself — or, in defending itself, will have that much less to spend on journalism.
(Ironically, Ritchie, the son of a journalist and an obvious publicity hound, is a bidder for Newsweek magazine, and along with Barkley, has considered forming a third national political party. Let’s hope one of the planks isn’t opposing frivolous lawsuits.)
Thanks to Judge Bransford’s ruling, that danger was defanged — the Strib won’t be out a dime, though it did refund $62,494.60 for nine of 15 ads that did run. The campaign finished up in the St. Paul Pioneer Press; I guess the powerful forces decided that was OK.
Among other facets, Bransford ruled that there was no breach of contract, no monetary damages, and the claim of “tortious interference with prospective economic advantage” had no basis. In other words, this whole suit was a bad joke.