A new judge has been assigned to the WGA’s civil suit against the Big 4 talent agencies after the guild used its peremptory challenge to boot the previous one off the case after accusing him of being “prejudiced.” A case management conference isn’t scheduled until October 21.
The new judge, Craig D. Karlan, replaces Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc Gross, who the guild accused of being “prejudiced” because his wife once worked for Endeavor before its 2009 merger with the William Morris Agency. That merger created WME, which is a defendant in the suit along with CAA, UTA and ICM Partners. The guild also noted that the Gross’ wife previously had worked at two production companies – Turner Network Television and GK-tv – that might have paid packaging fees to talent agencies.
“If those companies paid packaging fees to employee representatives,” a WGA attorney said in a letter to Gross requesting that he recuse himself, “the payments would arguably constitute a violation” of the plaintiff’s theory that challenges “the defendant agencies’ practice of receiving substantial packaging fees from the production companies that employ their clients.”
A CAA attorney scoffed at the guild’s legal theory for recusal. “That would require the recusal of a significant portion of the bench in the Los Angeles Superior Court,” the attorney told Judge Gross. “Perhaps that is the WGA’s goal – to ensure that no judge on the bench may hear its case who has any prior familiarity with the issues the WGA’s case raises. But such a broad-sweeping, frivolous theory is not a reasonable basis for recusal under Code of Civil Procedure.”
Karlan was appointed to the bench in 2002 after serving for 11 years as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, where he specialized in prosecuting white-collar and violent crimes. A graduate of Yale University, he earned his law degree from Harvard Law School.
The defendant agencies have a preemptory challenge, if they decide they want to use it.