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March 8, 2013 6:49 PM

Judge Oing's Battle Against Public Opinion in the Macy's Trial

Three weeks of slogging down to 60 Centre Street to cover the Macy's versus Martha Stewart and J.C. Penney trial has got to make one think. It certainly has me thinking -- about the case, no doubt -- but also...

Three weeks of slogging down to 60 Centre Street to cover the Macy's versus Martha Stewart and J.C. Penney trial has got to make one think. It certainly has me thinking -- about the case, no doubt -- but also about the fanfare I've witnessed both in the courtroom and outside of it.

The media circus that came to town when Terry Lundgren, Ron Johnson and Martha Stewart showed up to testify closed up shop as quickly as it arrived on the scene once the trio of high-profile executives took their company cars back uptown. 

Television crews, photographers and reporters clamored to one-up each other (myself included), as newspapers and blogs published eye-grabbing headlines and usually very unflattering photos of the high-profile trio. Even Stewart herself got caught up in the frenzy when she pulled out her camera to take pictures of the mob of photographers surrounding her on the courthouse steps after her testimony Tuesday. The following day, Stewart appeared on the "Today" show, during which she said it was improper that Macy's chief executive Terry Lundgren hung up on "a woman, business person." 

But once the big names left, along with the cameras, I found myself sitting in Judge Jeffrey Oing's half-empty courtroom with just a handful of reporters and lawyers, feeling the energy that had been sucked out of the room and thinking about the influence that the spotlight would eventually have on the judge's final decision. 

In his comments Thursday, Oing addressed the media frenzy and the stories that followed, cautioning Macy's from believing it would win the case even though it was "prevailing on some proverbial battles," or arguments it had made during the trial. Citing press reports that seemed to lean toward Macy's, the judge essentially said that the court of public opinion is not where the case would be won -- it would be won in his courtroom. 

Having covered other big legal fashion cases -- Yves Saint Laurent vs. Christian Louboutin; Gucci vs. Guess; the child-support case of PPR chief François-Henri Pinault vs. his old flame, model Linda Evangelista, and Chris Burch's lawsuit against his ex-wife Tory Burch -- I'm not so sure anyone, judge or not, is completely immune to all the hoopla. 

 Let's hope Judge Oing proves me wrong.
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