PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A judge ordered the Philadelphia Inquirer's owners to reinstate a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editor fired this fall for purported insubordination.
The reinstatement of editor William Marimow will likely be short-lived, however, since his contract reportedly expires on April 30.
Marimow had been the Inquirer's top editor from 2006 to 2010, and returned in May 2012, after the newspaper's lengthy bankruptcy proceedings, alongside new publisher Bob Hall.
The pair reported butted heads for several months before Hall gave Marimow the pink slip in October.
Inquirer co-owners Lewis Katz and H.F. Lenfest quickly filed suit against Hall and the publishing company Interstate General Media over the "unauthorized, unforeseen, and ill-advised" termination.
Claiming that the firing required their permission, Katz and Lenfest wanted Hall removed as publisher and Marimow reinstated as editor.
In his preliminary objections, Hall emphasized that, "both at the Inquirer and throughout the newspaper industry, the firing of editorial staff, particularly the editor, has historically been considered the Publisher's responsibility."
After four days of hearings in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Judge Patricia McInerney issued a Nov. 22 injunction reinstating Marimow.
The five-page ruling says Hall failed to seek approval for the firing from all ownership parties, and that, "under the limited liability agreement, the management committee possesses the authority to hire and fire the editor as part of its business and operational duties."
Citing a previous opinion, McInerney also refused to oust Hall, whose own contract reportedly expires on Dec. 31.
George Norcross, another owner of the Inquirer who sides with Hall on Marimow's firing, is meanwhile countersuing Katz and Lenfest in Delaware Chancery Court.
He says the partnership agreement that governs the company agreement "bars owners from interfering in the journalistic policies and decisions of the company's media properties," which include The Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com.
Judge McInerney nevertheless concluded that "testimony established that the management committee hired Mr. Marimow as editor," and that "the limited liability agreement trumped customary practices in the newspaper business."
"Mr. Katz was deprived of his voting right granted to him under the limited liability agreement and suffered irreparable harm," the opinion states.
McInerney also said Katz "had a clear right to vote on the firing of Mr. Marimow."
Daniel Fee, a spokesman for the majority owners, told USA Today that his clients intend to appeal.
"If upheld, the ruling would subject the beleaguered newspaper to paralysis," Fee said.
Norcross also announced he would seek an expedited appeal of the judge's decision "because it leaves the feuding owners in a continued stalemate" and "invites more chaos in the daily operation of the Inquirer."
Marimow joined the Inquirer though it allegedly meant turning down a prestigious position at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He won his second Pulitzer with the 2012 article "Policy Shift by D.A. Stirs Controversy."
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.