UPDATE: 2:01 PM: Looks like AMC will not be getting their day in court nor the sanctions they desire against CAA and Frank Darabont – at least not now. “The Court declines to sign Defendant’s Order to Show Cause to sanction,” wrote Judge Ellen Bransten today of this latest twist in the highly combative year-plus The Walking Dead lawsuit. The response from the NY Supreme Court judge comes just over a day after the cabler filed a highly charged order motion claiming that the agency and the producer committed repeated “false representations” of asserting CAA Business Affairs exec Jon Ringquist is a lawyer. Recent depositions in the case reveled that Ringquist is not an attorney.
To Judge Brantsen, in an echo of a statement made by Aaron Liskin at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP to Deadline yesterday, this should all be a matter for the appointed Discovery master if the parties can’t work it out. “The parties should first meet and confer regarding the alleged dispute in the proposed Order to Show Cause and to the extent that any remaining good faith dispute persists after this meet and confer, such dispute should be presented to and resolved by the Discovery Master,” the Justice added (read it here).
“CAA’s egregious misrepresentations regarding Mr. Ringquist’s status as a supposed lawyer were made to Justice Bransten, so we brought this important matter to her direct attention,” said one of AMC’s lawyers Marc Kasowitz today in response to Bransten declining their prosposed sanctions order. “We are pleased to follow her direction and have the Special Master in this case rule on our request for sanctions against CAA. It is notable that CAA does not deny that they have misrepresented Mr. Ringquist’s status as a lawyer and that CAA and Ringquist levered this lie to avoid discovery and obtain access to AMC’s most sensitive information and trade secrets.”
PREVIOUS, AUG. 20 PM EXCLUSIVE: The multi-million dollar lawsuit that Frank Darabont and CAA launched in late 2013 against AMC over alleged unpaid fees, gross receipts, self-dealing, credits and more from The Walking Dead has seen a lot of sharp jabs from both sides but today it went to a whole other place entirely – an apparently bad very place according to AMC.
Seeking sanctions, claiming damaging “false representations” and more in a proposed order (read it here) the cabler says that the mega agency and the producer played a fast one asserting CAA Business Affairs exec Jon Ringquist is a lawyer. Added to that in a case that truly is all about the details, recent revelations mean there is no way he should have been looking at the much contested and confidential AMC agreements for the likes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men as a part of the year and half legal battle’s discovery process.
“For over a year now, plaintiff CAA and its attorneys have repeatedly asserted both verbally and in writing that a senior CAA executive named Jon Ringquist was an in-house attorney who was providing CAA with legal advice in connection with this litigation,” says the memorandum accompanying the proposed sanctions order (read it here). AMC worry that Ringquist’s allegedly improperly obtained knowledge of their deals will give him and CAA a distinct advantage in any “future negotiations” with the cabler over other projects.
“This is a misunderstanding and the matter is completely taken out of context,” said Aaron Liskin at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP to Deadline today. “We were meeting on the issue and AMC cut off the good faith discussions and filed this motion.” The CAA lawyer added, speaking for both his firm and the agency: “this is a discovery issue, we have a discovery referee handling discovery matters and this should have should put before him, not the court.” Dale Kinsella was bare bones blunt: “Obviously concerned that they have lost every substantive issue before the court, AMC has improperly filed a motion that is both meritless and designated to deflect from its feeble defense efforts to date.”
Among other penalties against the plaintiffs, AMC want a portion of their legal fees paid, a list of all the “highly confidential” documents the BA CAA exec had seen and up to $10,000 “per occurrence of frivolous conduct” for the seeming slight of “CAA and its attorneys thereby have provided Mr. Ringquist with access to Defendants’ highly confidential attorneys’ eyes only trade secrets and have asserted attorney-client privilege to stymie Defendants’ discovery of his communications. But Mr. Ringquist, as CAA and its attorneys knew or were reckless in not knowing, is not and never has been an attorney.”
Despite Ringquist being put forth and accepted as an “in-house attorney” for the agency as recently as proposed July 13 protective order amendment from all the lawyers in the highly combative case, the long term CAAer was revealed in his August 12 deposition as having never even been to law school. The 27-year CAA vet also told AMC lawyers during that depo that he “is not a member of any state bar, is not a practicing lawyer, and has never rendered any legal advice to CAA.”
“Yet when caught red-handed, CAA failed to remedy the wrong,” states AMC’s memo filed today slamming the agency and their lawyers at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP. “Indeed, the only remedial step CAA has agreed to take in connection with this incident has been to agree that it will produce certain documents ‘that contain Mr. Ringquist’s name’ even though CAA claims that it never withheld these documents on privilege grounds.”
In fact, a big issue for AMC in this would-be misunderstanding in the zombie apocalypse legal saga is that Ringquist’s position as an attorney was a often cited part of another recent and stilted deposition in the case.”On numerous occasions during this deposition, Plaintiffs’ counsel Dale Kinsella represented that Mr. Ringquist was a CAA attorney and instructed Mr. Vinokour not to answer questions about conversations he had with Mr. Ringquist on privilege grounds,” says AMC’s filing of the June 3 questioning of Darabount’s TV Literary agent Bruce Vinokour. Let’s just say, AMC want this deposition retaken, to put it mildly.
After developing and launching the series based on the Robert Kirkman created comics, Darabont was shown the TWD door in July 2011 after the first season had aired. At that time Season 2 of The Walking Dead was in production.
Jerry Bernstein and Harris Cogan of NYC firm Blank Rome LLP along with Dale Kinsella represent Darabont and CAA with his fellow attorneys Chad Fitzgerald and Liskin at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP. Marc Kasowitz, Aaron Marks, John Berlinski and Mansi Shah of Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP’s NYC and LA offices are representing AMC.