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Judge Slams Al Jazeera for Bogus Stipulation

(CN) - A federal judge has scrapped a misleading court stipulation from Al Jazeera in a suit that claims the international news network owes a construction company $1.4 million for a state-of-the-art television studio and office space built in Washington, D.C.

Al Jazeera was previously ordered to pay $1.4 million to Winmar, a Washington-based construction company, as well as 12 percent prejudgment interest set to run from March 2006 and 0.25 percent interest since the September 2010 judgment.

The court granted Al Jazeera a supersedeas bond in anticipation of an appeal, based in part on a so-called "joint stipulation" filed by the Dohar, Qatar-based network, stating that both sides had agreed on the amount of such a bond. But, the court soon discovered, Winmar never conceded to the bond amount.

"Al Jazeera's 'joint stipulation' was neither 'joint' nor a 'stipulation,'" U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler wrote, "It should never have been filed." (Emphasis in original)

Throughout the proceedings, Al Jazeera referred to the document, titled "Joint Stipulation," as a "proposed stipulation." The news group's attorneys argued that the court had been made aware of the nature of the stipulation.

Kessler disagreed. "However, because of the misleading nature of the Joint Stipulation heading, and the fact that the court understood that counsel had been in negotiations over the bond amount, the court surmised that they were close to resolving the issue, and that there was basic agreement - which there was not - to the filing of a supersedeas bond," the eight-page decision states.

Kessler scrapped the joint stipulation on Wednesday and nullified the bond. She also denied several emergency motions by Al Jazeera, ruling that the judgment was not final.

Winmar's complaint explicitly asked for attorneys' fees to be included in the judgment. Because attorneys' fees are an "integral part of the underlying substantive claim," Kessler ruled, the judgment could not be considered final.

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