A lawsuit by former San Diego Union-Tribune cartoonist Steve Kelley alleging the paper intimidated his successor, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Breen, to not collaborate on a joint comic strip has been thrown out by a San Diego Superior Court.
According to The Voice of San Diego, Kelley, now the cartoonist at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, alleged that the newspaper’s leadership “applied undue pressure and coercion” on Breen, telling him that Kelly was “not loyal” and “not a team player.” Breen eventually canceled the partnership on their joint strip “Dustin.”
However, the judge noted that Breen testified “that while he ‘sensed’ defendants were not crazy about him working with (Kelley), he quit working on the comic strip for reasons other than pressure from defendants. He testified he quit because he did not see the ‘magic’ in the strip, because of his workload and because he did not want to upset his employer.”
The ruling also notes that he was never told he could not work on the comic strip, and the concerns expressed by his employer related to whether he was taking on too much work.
Kelley was fired from the Union-Tribune back in 2001 over an incident involving a cartoon that poked fun at teens in low-riding jeans by showing their butt cracks. At the time, Kelley told various television stations and the American Journalism Review that the paper accused him of trying to sneak the rejected cartoon into the paper.
Kelley’s attorney indicated he plans to ask the judge to reconsider his ruling, and that an appeal is possible.
Kelley told The Voice of San Diego that the comic strip “Dustin” will be launched by King Features Syndicate in January.