X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Name and title: Katherine Hatton, vice president and general counsel Age: 51 Front page: Even for Philadelphia, Oct. 7, 2003, was a weird news day, according to Hatton, general counsel for Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. (PNI), publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. In what was termed a routine sweep for electronic surveillance, the Philadelphia police discovered a listening device concealed in the ceiling of Mayor John Street’s City Hall office. While refusing to confirm or deny that the feds had planted the bug, an FBI spokesperson said that the device had nothing to do with the ongoing mayoral race Soon after this story broke, Hatton’s phone began ringing with reporters’ questions about federal court approval for electronic surveillance, which soon segued into requests to see the paperwork supporting the FBI’s warrant. Hatton summoned outside counsel at the Philadelphia office of Dechert to petition the court to unseal affidavits. “Because the election was so imminent, I thought there was a good argument for providing voters with more information,” said Hatton. U.S. District Judge James T. Giles saw things differently in an Oct. 14 ruling that the government’s need for confidentiality outweighed the papers’ “temporary, titillating interest” in the court documents. Hatton was disappointed but not surprised by this ruling, given the restrictive case law on public access to criminal investigation documents. However, she objects to Giles’ suggestion that PNI’s petition was motivated by the desire to sell more papers. “Reporters don’t look at a story like this and think that it might increase our circulation and revenue,” she said. “They just think that this is a good and important story.” PNI has not appealed. Read all about it: PNI, a subsidiary of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, publishes the Inquirer and Daily News, four suburban weeklies and six local magazines. The 3,000-employee company reports more than $500 million in annual operating revenue. Legal notices: Hatton handles PNI’s legal affairs from her 12th-floor office in the Inquirer Building, an all-white 1920s-era skyscraper overlooking downtown’s Broad Street. Hatton focuses on newsroom issues, consulting with reporters and editors on newsgathering rights and libel wrongs. She also oversees litigation and handles employment and personnel matters. Associate GC Suzanne Mitchell concentrates on contracts and commercial matters. A former reporter herself, Hatton casts herself as a counselor rather than as a newsroom naysayer. “I try to remind editors and reporters that we have separate roles. My role is to suggest ways that things might be said more safely and help them evaluate the risks,” she said. “In the end, the decision whether to take the risk is for the journalist, not for the lawyer.” Courthouse beat: Aggressive courthouse reporting by the Inquirer and Daily News sometimes angers local judges, whose remedies extend beyond the typical enraged reader’s reaction of writing a nasty letter to the editor. In 2001, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Linda Baxter issued an order barring the media from contacting members of the hung jury in the murder trial of a Cherry Hill, N.J., rabbi who was accused (and later convicted after retrial) of hiring two bungling ex-cons to kill his wife. After the Inquirer ran a four-byline story on allegations that the jury forewoman resided in Pennsylvania, Baxter cited the four reporters for criminal contempt, imposing $1,000 fines against each journalist and sentencing three to community service. At Hatton’s urging, PNI appealed the gag order to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which upheld Baxter on the ground that media interviews of the deadlocked jury might give the prosecution an unfair advantage in the retrial. Hatton unsuccessfully sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court, with 12 news organizations-including the Washington Post, New York Times, CBS and NBC-signing an amicus brief supporting PNI’s certiorari petition. Hatton regrets that the court did not reverse what she considers an unprecedented post-trial gag order. “We thought it was important enough to take to the Supreme Court because it is important for the public to have information about how the judicial system operates,” she said. The Inquirer is paying for separate counsel for its four reporters in the pending appeal of their criminal contempt convictions, she said. The paper is also pressing on in a 20-year-old libel lawsuit filed by former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice James T. McDermott. McDermott, who died in 1992, claimed he was defamed in a 1983 series of Inquirer articles detailing alleged ethical violations by McDermott and his fellow justices. In 1990, a jury delivered a $6 million verdict against the paper and a reporter. After years more in the courts, the trial court granted a retrial. The court has not yet set a new trial date. Principal outside counsel: PNI’s main outside counsel is Dechert. For New Jersey matters, Hatton calls on Brown & Connery of Westmont, N.J. Route to the top: The Akron, Ohio, native was exposed to both law and journalism at an early age. Hatton’s father was a patent lawyer for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., and Hatton was editor of the student newspaper of her high school and of Bowling Green State University, where she majored in political science and journalism. After graduating in 1974, Hatton worked as a suburban reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In 1976-77, she attended Yale Law School in a year-long Ford Foundation fellowship designed to teach journalists about the law. The program worked too well in Hatton’s case. After a year back at the Plain Dealer, she enrolled at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. In 1980, Hatton received her law degree, married former Plain Dealer editor Richard Bilotti and moved to Philadelphia to join Kohn Klein Nast & Graf (now Kohn, Swift & Graf), which was then outside counsel to PNI. She was hired as PNI’s GC in 1992. Personal: Hatton is married to Bilotti, who is now the publisher of the Trenton Times, a newspaper of the competing Newhouse chain. “Thankfully our circulation areas don’t overlap much,” said Hatton, adding that she and her husband are careful to avoid discussing confidential business information. “We know what’s off limits,” she said. Last book and movie: The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, by Linda R. Monk, and Lost in Translation. �William C. Smith

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.