LAS VEGAS - NBC News said it will appeal a judge's ruling rather than include Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in a candidates' debate this evening in Nevada.
"We disagree with the judge's decision and are filing an appeal," said a statement provided for the network by Jeremy Gaines, a communications vice president for MSNBC. He said the network would seek an immediate hearing before the Nevada Supreme Court.
Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson on Monday sided with a lawyer for the Ohio congressman, who submitted transcripts of e-mails that appeared to show debate host MSNBC and a Democratic party liaison initially invited Kucinich to take part in the debate before telling him last week he was cut from the lineup.
"Had it been established at the beginning that they'll only take the top three for the debates, I wouldn't have any problem enforcing it," Thompson told lawyers for NBC Universal Inc. at a hastily convened hearing on the lawsuit, filed Monday in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas.
"I'm somewhat offended that a legitimate candidate was invited to a debate and then uninvited under circumstances that appear to be that they just decided to exclude him," the judge said.
Las Vegas lawyer Donald Campbell, NBC lawyer Coby Williams and NBC Political Director Chuck Todd declined to say whether Kucinich would be added to the debate lineup or whether the event would be canceled if the appeal fails.
Campbell and Bill McGaha, the Las Vegas lawyer representing Kucinich, said later that the judge told them he would sign an order this morning to include Kucinich in the debate.
"The whole intent is to include him and for the debate to go forward," McGaha said.
The cable news network and the Democratic party have billed the 6 p.m. debate as a chance for Nevada's minority communities to pose questions to three front-runners - Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. Tim Russert and Brian Williams are scheduled to moderate.
"A determination was made that ... they were going to go with just the top three," Campbell told the judge.
He argued that the state court had no jurisdiction; that Federal Communications Commission broadcast rules do not apply to cable TV networks; and that Kucinich had not exhausted administrative remedies available through the FCC.
Campbell noted that the FCC rejected Kucinich's bid to be included in a Jan. 5 debate from New Hampshire on ABC.