Just over a month after CBS was hit with a wide-ranging lawsuit over profits from the Judge Judy show and Her Honor’s $47 million salary, the network has struck back. In an answer filed Friday in L.A. Superior Court to Rebel Entertainment Partners complaint of May 14, a somewhat embarrassed CBS said basically “no way” because the parties in question fraudulently misrepresented themselves for decades.
“Lawrence and ARL have never represented the talent and did not adequately represent the producers, whom they left totally unprotected in the event of termination while they collected millions,” says the seven-page filing from attorneys for Big Ticket Television, CBS Studios and CBS Corp. Lawrence and ARL refers to talent agent Richard Lawrence and agency Abrams Rubaloff & Lawrence, who repped producers Sandi Spreckman and Kaye Switzer, who developed the Judge Judy concept after seeing Judy Sheindlin on 60 Minutes back in 1993.
“Indeed, Lawrence and ARL continued to receive payments for the Project long after Spreckman and Switzer — the elements of the purported ‘package’ that were actually represented by Lawrence and ARL — were terminated from the Project,” today’s response states. “Seen another way, the only ‘value’ Lawrence brought to the show was two producers who were fired during the first season, and yet Lawrence and ARL continued to collect package commissions based on that supposed value for over 20 years to the tune of approximately $17,000,000.00.”
Charging in their May 14 filing that since 2010 Rebel has been denied profits from the supposedly in-the-red Judge Judy that are contractually due. Rebel Entertainment is Lawrence’s current company and the rights heir to the Judge Judy deal – a deal CBS seemingly sure bet they had looked into more carefully. The plaintiffs also allege that they are due a “packaging fee” from the Sheindlin-created Hot Bench show too – because it is a Judge Judy spinoff.
“I met Mr. Lawrence for two hours some 21 years ago,” Sheindlin herself said in a statement after Rebel filed its potentially multimillion-dollar breach-of-contract complaint. “Neither I nor anyone involved in the day-to-day production of my program has heard from him in 20 years. Not a card, not a gift, not a flower, not a congratulations. Yet he has somehow received over $17million from my program. My rudimentary math translates that into $8.5 million an hour for Mr. Lawrence. Not a bad payday. Now complaining about not getting enough money, that’s real chutzpah.”
Closing in on 20 years on air as the acerbic judge, Sheindlin re-upped with CBS TV in 2013 and then in 2015 inked an extended deal to see her on Judge Judy until 2020.
“As a result of Lawrence’s and ARL’s inducement, Big Ticket paid Plaintiff approximately $17,000,000.00 to which it is not entitled, and which should be applied to offset any amounts awarded to Plaintiff as a result of the Complaint, and each and every cause of action alleged therein,” CBS’ attorneys said Friday, making it clear they intend to hit Rebel in the pocketbook in the courts.
If CBS left any cracks for legal sunlight to get in today, this statement in their answer essentially sealed it: “Defendants generally and specifically deny each and every allegation of the Complaint, deny that Plaintiff has been damaged or harmed as alleged because of any act or omission of Defendants, or at all, and deny that Plaintiff is entitled to any relief whatsoever from Defendants.”
CBS are repped by lawyers at L.A. firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP. Rebel is represented by Freedman and Jordan Susman in the action. Full disclosure: Freedman has acted for PMC, Deadline’s parent company, in a number of legal matters.