KUSI-TV and former news anchor Sandra Maas are still barreling toward an April 15 trial in her pay-equity case, but Friday saw a delay on dueling motions over alleged email hacking and professional misconduct.
Judge Ronald Frazier told both sides that he’ll hear arguments March 11 in downtown Superior Court after several issues are resolved.
“You folks have given us basically a law-school evidence exam,” Frazier told the lawyers. “There are so many evidentiary issues here, which I personally find fascinating. But it’s a lot to unravel in a very short period of time.”
He described the issues in an order filed Thursday, which cites March 4 as when a KUSI request to remove Maas’ lawyers would be heard alongside a Maas demand for the return of emails taken from the private account of former anchor Anna Laurel.
But March 4 was changed to March 11 — two weeks from now.
Joshua Pang, an attorney for Maas, said after an 11-minute hearing that he had expected a ruling Friday morning. “But sometimes judges need more time and more information.”
Now Pang expects a decision in two weeks.
Frazier noted the April trial date and told Pang and KUSI attorney Marisa Janine-Page: “While this case is not a new case, and not an old case, it needs to be resolved soon.”
Among other things, Frazier said in his order he doesn’t have a clear picture of the scope of the emails in dispute.
“In order to maintain the privileged nature of any potentially privileged documents, the court has not reviewed any of the exhibits referenced in [KUSI HR director] Sally Luck’s declaration,” he wrote.
Frazier also cited “some confusion” over how KUSI-TV acquired Laurel’s email.
KUSI legal filings mention two methods, he said: an anonymous priority mail package containing copies of Laurel’s emails, and a search performed by KUSI CFO Steve Sadler of Laurel’s personal email account on a newsroom laptop.
That laptop will be subject to a forensic analysis next week — after both sides hash out what can be revealed. (KUSI is worried about business secrets being exposed.)
On March 4, both sides will report to Frazier the status of the laptop analysis. Laurel sat quietly in spectator seating Friday while Maas sat next to lawyer Pang.
In June 2019, Maas sued KUSI owner McKinnon Broadcasting Co. for $10 million, alleging her contract wasn’t renewed because she sought the same salary as her recently retired co-anchor, Allen Denton. (That figure has since been dropped.)
In her final year, her contract shows, Maas made $180,000. That was a $20,000 raise from her previous salary — but still $70,000 less than Denton’s final salary of about $250,000.
Maas says Denton — who has been deposed in the case — told her his pay Feb. 28, 2019, his last day at work.