The $80 million legal battle between Warner Bros and the Saul Zaentz Company and the estate of The Lord Of The Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien over copyright and digital merchandising just took another turn – this time against some of the lawyers. The studio and its partner in this case this week filed a motion to have Fourth Age’s lawyers Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP disqualified from the case. “Warner and Zaentz bring this motion to disqualify Greenberg as counsel of record for the Tolkien/HC Parties in this litigation and for other relief, because the firm impermissibly gained access to privileged information in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct,” said the motion filed yesterday in federal court. WB and Zaentz have asked for a hearing on July 7 for Judge Audrey Collinsto to rule on their motion (read it here).
The other side says this is all a smokescreen. “There is absolutely no basis for the motion filed by WB and Zaentz yesterday,” said Greenberg attorney Bonnie Eskenazi today. ”Greenberg Glusker acted properly in all respects at all times. The motion was filed for purely and transparently tactical and strategic reasons. We look forward to the Court vindicating our position.” The filing comes just over two weeks after the court denied a motion by Zarntz seeking to get a review of a document it wanted clawbacked. That ruling allowed the third-party business proposal paperwork with its reference to “tangibility” in the margins to be included in the case. It is non-tangible merchandising, such as online slot machines and other digital merchandising, that makes up the heart of the Tolkien estate’s case. While a partner in the firm, heavyweight Hollywood lawyer Bert Fields is not directly involved in this case. Read More »
In a move that comes as about as much as a surprise as James Bond liking his martini shaken not stirred, Universal today responded to the multi-claim Section 6 lawsuit from MGM and Bond producer Danjaq with a request that the federal court throw out the “threadbare allegations about hypothetical future infringement in works yet to be produced.” In fact, Universal accuses MGM and Danjaq of using the possibility of their Aaron Berg-written WWI-themed pic about the formation of the UK’s MI6 as a pretense for larger aims. “In an effort to claim an unfounded monopoly on the British spy genre, and to scare away Universal and any other would-be competitors to James Bond, Plaintiffs rushed to file this needless action,” notes today’s filing (read it here). Berg himself has also filed a heavily redacted motion for dismissal (read it here) for his “undeniably original creative work.” This latest move from entertainment legal mastermind Bert Fields and Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP partner Aaron Moss requests a June 30 hearing on the motion for Universal Studios and NBCUniversal Media, LLC. Represented by David Aronoff and Amber Henry of LA firm Lathrop & Gage LLP, scribe Berg is seeking the same date for a hearing on his motion too.
“Universal moves to dismiss on the ground that the Complaint states no claims upon which relief may be granted against Universal,” says the 19-page filing … Read More »
The war is over. Paramount Pictures and the estate of The Godfather author Mario Puzo have reached a settlement in their legal battle over new books and movies based on the Mafia classic. On Thursday, lawyers for both sides submitted a brief joint stipulation (read it here) to the U.S. District Court in New York asking for all claims to be dismissed. “This stipulation of dismissal with prejudice is pursuant to a settlement agreement among Paramount and Puzo and is not an adjudication on the merits of the claims or defenses of either party,” the stipulation said. No details of the settlement were made public.
This week’s deal comes after Judge Alison Nathan ruled on September 26 that Paramount, which released the original Godfather film in 1972 and its subsequent sequels, can make more movies about the Corleone clan if it still wants to. This legal war started in February when Paramount sued the Puzo estate to stop the publication of an “unauthorized” third Godfather sequel/prequel. In its suit, the studio claimed the book blemished the legacy of the films. In March, the estate countersued, claiming that the contract between Puzo and Paramount distinctly excluded book rights. The countersuit claimed that Paramount is in material breach of its contract with Mario Puzo. The two sides reached an agreement in May to allow the publication of new The … Read More »
Hollywood litigator Bert Fields today announced what he called “a key ruling” in the case of The Weinstein Company vs. Kevin Williamson filed last April. He said California Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Murphy of the California Superior Court has overruled Williamson’s attempt to have the Weinstein case dismissed. Williamson asked the Court to throw out The Weinstein Company’s case on the grounds that it is preempted by the Copyright Act and fails to satisfy those requirements. In a comprehensive opinion read from the bench, Judge Murphy rejected Williamson’s arguments. Not surprisingly, Fields, who argued the case for the Weinsteins, described Judge Murphy’s ruling as “thorough, well-reasoned and on the money”. He said the case as to who owns the sought-after Williamson project Shadows can now proceed to trial and expressed confidence that the Weinsteins will win.
Related: The Weinstein Co. Sues Kevin Williamson Over Rights To ‘Shadows’
The Weinstein Company filed suit against Kevin Williamson and his Outer Banks Entertainment claiming it had reached a settlement with Williamson paying him in exchange for releasing claims they had against each other in the disagreement over Williamson’s contractual obligations to TWC for writing and producing Scream 4. TWC contends the company paid Williamson for control of Scream 4 and other movie projects including Shadows. But Williamson, in addition to the money already paid, claims that he remains exclusive … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Weinstein Vs Relativity Lawsuit Over Distribution Of ‘The Crow’ Remake; Relativity Calls Bros On ‘Intimidation Antics’
UPDATE: This just gets better and better, especially when lawyers attack with poison pen letters. I’ve just been slipped this missive from Relativity’s Chicago-based attorney Carol Genis of K&L Gates to The Weinstein Co’s Century City litigator Bert Fields sent today. It outlines Relativity’s position on The Crow distribution vis a vis today’s Weinstein Co lawsuit:
Dear Mr. Fields:
As we have informed you, the project for which you are demanding representations from Relativity is not even in production. Relativity has no obligation whatsoever to produce or distribute The Crow, and certainly has no obligation to assure TWC of anything. Relativity will waste no further time engaging in a hypothetical dialogue with you about a potential dispute that may or may not arise in the future.
In addition to being premature, your letter smacks of delusion as it ignores TWCs multiple breaches of the parties March 25, 2009 agreement (Termination Agreement). TWC openly and undisputedly failed to meet its financial obligations relating to Nine and failed to meet the contractual minimum marketing spend and contractual minimum screens for that film. As TWC is well aware, its wrongful conduct led to serious financial and other damage to Relativity. On top of such breaches, your client has failed to make payments due to Relativity
… Read More »
EXCLUSIVE… UPDATE with Relativity reaction below): My day was just made. Right now, there’s a lawsuit being carried to the courtroom clerk in Los Angeles filed by one of the most controversial indie movie moguls against still another most controversial indie movie mogul. Don’t you just love when this happens? Bert Fields is repping Harvey and Bob’s The Weinstein Co against Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media seeking injunctive relief and claiming there’s “a written contract signed by everybody” which gives the Weinsteins exclusive worldwide distribution rights on The Crow reboot. The original was distributed by the Weinsteins at Miramax back in 1994 and grossed $50.6M domestic. The Weinsteins and Kavanaugh went back and forth on “a number of issues” before the lawsuit was filed this afternoon. “Mr. Kavanaugh was not going to honor that contract. Apparently, he’s going to sell these rights to others. He made a bunch of threats,” Fields tells me. “Some people may submit to that kind of arrogant conduct, but we’re not going to do it. If anybody tries to buy these distribution rights in The Crow, they are buying nothing but a lawsuit and they will get sued.” (The photo above is from Ryan and Harv in happier days…)
Needless to say, Relativity Media really laid into the Weinsteins in this reaction statement:
“This is yet another typical litigation stunt from the Weinsteins who have a long history of threatening law suits with the sole purpose of intimidation. If served, Relativity will seek immediate dismissal. While we expect these types of antics from the Weinsteins, we are shocked that a lawyer of Mr. Fields’ caliber would make such false, reckless and intentionally harmful statements to the press about Relativity and Mr. Kavanaugh. We intend to seek appropriate remedies for this misconduct. Clearly this is a feeble attempt to create a press stir and a malicious effort to interfere with Relativity’s development of the project.”
When I asked Fields why Kavanaugh Read More »
Uma Thurman is keen to get Eloise up and running again. What’s not clear is whether Thurman will continue starring as Eloise’s long-suffering nanny or turn producer. Thurman had hired Bert Fields, Hollywood’s most feared showbiz lawyer, to represent her against London-based Handmade. She argued that not only had Handmade not paid her an agreed £2.8 million pay-or-play fee, but that she’d also lost earnings waiting for Eloise to start. Now Thurman has settled her £6 million ($10 million) lawsuit against Handmade Films.
The entertainment uber-litigator just confirmed to me that he was formally notified today. The lawyer for Pellicano trial co-defendant LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson had intended to put Fields on the witness stand. So Bert spent two days down at the Roybal federal building cooling his heels. Federal prosecutor Daniel Saunders had vowed to grill Fields for a minimum four hours during cross-examination if he testified. It sure looks as if Arneson’s attorney backed down. Fields vs Saunders: now that would have been a real-life court drama.
So Hollywood’s uber-litigator Bert Fields keeps getting bumped, and bumped again, so the earliest he could take the witness stand in the Pellicano federal trial is Friday, according to my colleague Steven Mikulan who’s reporting on it for DHD and LA Weekly. Tomorrow, lawyers on both sides will discuss jury instructions with the judge as the trial winds down. (Photo of Fields outside the Roybal federal building taken by Jim Stevenson exclusively for DHD)
The Pellicano trial’s court session today was cancelled even though Hollywood superlawyer Bert Fields showed up to take the witness stand after being called by the defense attorney for LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson. (See photo below by Jim Stevenson exclusively for DHD.) So while Bert cools his heels, the defense will get a hearing tomorrow at 10 AM before U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer over allegations that prosecutors illegally used confidential testimony in their cross examination of Arneson last Friday. After this issue was raised, jurors were dismissed today and Fields instructed to return to court tomorrow where he’ll testify after FBI agent Stan Ornalles. (Photo by Jim Stevenson exclusively for DHD)
Chad Hummel, defense attorney for LAPD Sgt Mark Arneson in the Pellicano trial, just told the court that he reserves the right to call entertainment superlawyer Bert Fields as a witness as soon as tomorrow. Interestingly, the federal prosecutors never called Fields after that Fifth Amendment snafu. So Asst. U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders asked in court why Fields was being called as a witness for Arneson: “We could cross-examine Mr. Fields for four hours, but what is his relevance to defendant Arneson?” Hummel replied that Fields’ testimony would go to the matter of whether Arneson was part of a criminal enterprise, as all the defendants are charged with that in the indictment.
Feds Explain Their Bert Fields Snafu…
EXCLUSIVE! BERT FIELDS WILL TESTIFY (…And Won’t Take The Fifth)
Fields, of course, regularly put Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano on legal cases. Meanwhile, Pellicano only intends to call one witness on Friday when he presents his defense. (he’s representing himself.) The P.I. had discussed with the federal judge the possibility that he might testify. But it now appears he’s decided against that. Stay tuned…
Chris Rock testifies Friday at 8 AM. I hear Michael Ovitz, and former journalists Bernie Weinraub and Anita Busch, will probably testify next week.
Very little of this week’s trial so far has focused on mainstream Hollywood business although some testimony has been titillating but also tawdry. I’ll skip the latter involving divorces, etc. But New York hedge fund manager Adam Sender testified under immunity that P.I. Anthony Pellicano once offered to have quasi-movie producer Aaron Russo rubbed out. (Sender had invested $1.1 million in a movie production company with Russo and not a single pic ever got made. Welcome to Hollywood, Mr. Sender.) Later, one of the defense attorneys moved to strike Sender’s murder-for-hire testimony about Pellicano, who’s not charged with offing anyone. U.S. District Court Dale Fischer will decide.
Sender also said this about his meeting with attorney Bert Fields: “He suggested that I work with Mr. Pellicano. That he was very good at what he did. That he used unorthodox methods but he gets the job done.” And Sender quoted Pellicano saying this about allegedly finding out that someone Sender trusted turned out to be in cahoots with Russo: “I am 100% loyal. That’s why Bert uses me on every case.”
Andrew Stevens, the one-time himbo actor turned producer, testified with immunity about listening to alleged wiretaps played for him by Pellicano. They stemmed from privileged attorney-client communications between entertainment attorney John LaViolette and his clients … Read More »
UPDATE: Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders gave a statement to the media this AM trying to extricate himself from a sticky snafu: why he told federal court yesterday that Bert Fields was taking the Fifth Amendment if called to testify, and why Fields himself told me yesterday he wasn’t taking the Fifth and is willing to testify (see my previous, EXCLUSIVE! BERT FIELDS WILL TESTIFY (…And Won’t Take The Fifth):
“I was advised by Mr. Fields’ personal counsel Mr. John Keker that he [Fields] would be invoking the Fifth Amendment. We since have been informed by Mr. Fields’s firm’s general counsel that he will not invoke the Fifth and that Mr. Keker is no longer representing Mr. Fields. We have not decided if we will or will not call Mr. Fields. It will depend on the testimony of a couple of witnesses next week.”
Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
2ND UPDATE: I just got off the phone with top Hollywood litigator Bert Fields who tells me, “I intend to testify. I have nothing to hide. I have not been subpoenaed but if I am, I will show up and testify.” Asked why the feds said in pre-trial proceedings at the Pellicano trial today that Fields planned to take the Fifth Amendment rather than testify about his relationship with Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano, Bert told me, “It’s complicated” and declined to reveal more than that.
What a stunner of a day. First, the feds announced in federal court this morning that Fields, long considered Hollywood’s leading litigator who frequently hired The Pelican on cases, would be taking the Fifth Amendment when he’s called to testify in the Pellicano trial. The news immediately threw the pre-trial proceedings into a tizzy as prosecutors and defense attorneys tried to figure out its ramifications. So U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer scheduled a conference on the situation for next Monday March 31st. It was Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders who first told the court during pre-trial proceedings today that his understanding was that “one of our witnesses” plans to take the Fifth Amendment. One of the defense lawyers asked the name of the witness, and Saunders answered, “Bert Fields”. The judge asked the attorneys how they wished to handle this, and next Monday’s conference was scheduled.
But, as I reported above, this is wrong. Fields will … Read More »
I can report that the federal prosecutors in the Pellicano wiretapping trial have told the Paramount chief it’s a very real possibility he’ll take the witness stand tomorrow to talk all about Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano. Because of that, the studio boss is heading to Roybal federal building in downtown Los Angeles in his best blue suit. This is the first time in the course of the wiretapping and conspiracy trial that a big-name Hollywood figure is testifying, not to mention a Hollywood mogul. There’s little doubt that Grey, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, will be asked to testify about his years as one of the entertainment industry’s most prominent managers and producers: specifically, comedian Garry Shandling’s civil suit accusing Grey of conflict of interest, and screenwriter Bo Zenga’s legal fight with Grey over Scary Movie dollars. In both cases, the mogul was represented by top entertainment litigator Bert Fields. Both Grey and Fields are said by the feds to have hired Anthony Pellicano. Fields also isn’t accused of any crimes by the government.
… Read More »
2ND UPDATE: Brad Grey May Testify Thursday…
UPDATE: Garry Shandling’s ex-girlfriend Linda Doucett, who has told the press she was victimized by Anthony Pellicano, left the Roybal federal building today after briefly taking the witness stand. (Photo by Jim Stevenson). Doucett’s testimony today was not particularly Hollywood-centric. The former actress (who played Hank Kingsley’s secretary Darlene on The Larry Sanders Show) said she received a threatening phone call within weeks of her first meeting with FBI agent Stan Ornellas in November 2003 about then imprisoned Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano. Spectators said her voice cracked as she testified that an anonymous caller telephoned her house, asked if she was Linda Doucett, and then said that if she talked to her “friend Stan” then she wouldn’t be seeing her son anymore. Doucett then phoned her one-time boyfriend, former HBO chairman and one-time Warner Music Chairman Michael Fuchs, who urged her to tell the FBI.
During Pellicano’s cross-examination, he asked Doucett how the threatening phone call could be linked to himself. ”You’re the only bad guy I know,” she replied. Later, one of the co-defendant’s lawyers got Doucett to admit there might be other bad guys in her life. Doucett also testified that now she didn’t recall telling the FBI that Brad Grey had ever “threatened to ruin” her. Later, during more cross-examination, Pellicano asked Doucett how she could link her testimony in the Shandling vs Grey lawsuit … Read More »
UPDATE: Garry Shandling’s Washington DC lawyer David Boies who represented the comedian in his lawsuit against Brad Grey responded today to Bert Fields’ statement which I posted yesterday. Boies told Allison Hope Weiner at The Huffington Post that Mr. Fields’ comment “misstates what the settlement provides”:
“Let me put it this way, the primary object of the lawsuit was to recover the share in Gary Shandling’s shows that Brad Grey held and which Shandling claimed had been improperly misappropriated. That objective was achieved by the settlement. The money that Mr. Fields refers to — $4 million — was in addition to the other more important elements of the settlement. One of things that makes Bert a popular lawyer, he’s very aggressive on asserting things on behalf of his clients and attacking their opponents.
“Gary Shandling did not bring the indictment against Mr. Pellicano. He did not bring that lawsuit. He did not volunteer to testify at it and he testified under oath. Everything he said in the testimony was accurate and supported by the evidence. Mr. Shandling did not select the questions that he answered. He merely responded truthfully to questions that were asked. I think it is regrettable that the dispute between between Mr. Shandling and Mr. Grey which we all hoped had been resolved continues to be the subject of public comment. I know that Gary Shandling would rather be being funny than testifying in court or responding to ill-considered
… Read More »
Famed Century City entertainment litigator Bert Fields today issued this statement in response to some of the charges leveled by comedian Garry Shandling in his Pellicano trial testimony last week as well as the coverage of it by the Los Angeles Times. Fields defended Grey during Garry Shandling’s conflict of interest lawsuit:
“I was appalled at the report on Gary Shandling’s testimony in the Los Angeles Times of March 17th.
“Firstly, Shandling’s allegations in his lawsuit against Brad Grey did not include any claim of forgery. A check of the Court file would have shown this. So would a call to me. Without making any such check, the Times article reported that Shandling claimed forgery and even compared Brad to David Begelman, a convicted forger.
Let me be clear. There was no forgery, and no forgery was claimed.
“Similarly, Shandling’s claim that Brad wouldn’t let him see his own contracts is absurd. It never happened.
“Shandling’s basic claim in his lawsuit was that Brad sold his own interest in certain television shows and in Brad’s own company. He did not sell Shandling’s interest in anything; but Shandling claimed he should have. To me, that claim made no legal sense. Yet it was the fundamental basis of his lawsuit.
“To measure the validity of that lawsuit, Shandling sued for $100 million and settled for only $4 million. The actual settlement agreement is available for anyone who wants to check. Although I felt confident about Brad’s winning
… Read More »