Penciled in for a jury trial start date of June 8 next year, the ex-staff writer for The Newsroom has come out swinging this week against the uber-agency’s desire to see his March-launched action against it and agents Andrew Miller and Leah Yerushalaim tossed – and his Doniger/Burroughs lawyers are invoking a far larger problem that CAA and the other Big 4 agencies are facing.
“This case exists against the backdrop of a major battle — including litigation — between the Writers Guild of America (“WGA”) and the four major talent agencies regarding systematic fiduciary duty breaches by the agencies against their writer-clients,” a July 23 opposition by Musero to CAA’s May demurrer motion (read it here). “By signing with CAA, Musero placed his trust in Defendants to use their judgment and expertise to act in his best interest, and to always put his interest ahead of their own,” the scribe’s attorneys state in the recent filing as they await an August 5 hearing on the motion in LA. Superior Court. “For three years, Musero relied on Defendants exclusively to act as his advocates with respect to his career as a writer. Unfortunately, they did not do so.”
CAA did not respond to request for comment on the new filing.
“Musero submitted television show projects to Defendants to pitch on his behalf, and yet Defendants used those properties primarily for the benefit of their larger clients, ultimately receiving Musero’s treatment for a show about the Attorney General’s office styled Main Justice and then developing a remarkably similar show about the Attorney General’s Office also called Main Justice with a larger client, Jerry Bruckheimer’s company, and negotiating a packaged deal with CBS for that project after becoming aware that CBS was previously interested in Musero’s Main Justice project,” this week’s effort to keep the suit alive states, reiterating the bullet points of the case.
Then the magic damning dots are connected, so to speak.
“Musero is informed and believes that Defendants misappropriated his Main Justice, and that the sale of Bruckheimer’s Main Justice was a packaged deal involving CAA clients,” the 15-page opposition throws out there of the project that saw former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder partnered with the Top Gun EP.
“While the offending Main Justice was ultimately not picked up by CBS, and its pilot never aired, the show was publicly announced, and CBS cast and produced the pilot for millions of dollars. Thus, by selling a competing project under the same title about the same thing, agent Miller foreclosed any possibility of the prior project he had represented and commissioned, Musero’s Main Justice, being sold.”
Read: CAA threw me under the bus for Bruckheimer and Holder and left me damaged goods in the process.
Clearly Musero is not the first writer to connect his dilemmas with his reps to a larger conflict splintering Hollywood, but he seems to be the first one doing so in the courts individually. On the macro level, there have been a slew of lawsuits, responses and new suits from the WGA to CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners and back piling up in the courts since the Guild instructed its members more than 100 days ago to start firing their agents over the widespread and lucrative practice of packaging.
However, after essentially being curb-stomped with accusations of a “fatally vague” case by Lewis Brisbois partner Craig Holden in CAA’s late-May backlash, Musero and his team know that their claims of self interested behavior (imagine that!) on the part of agencies carry extra weight in this particular time in Hollywood.
“Plaintiff’s complaint is a factually detailed pleading which sets forth plainly understandable claims against Defendants,” Musero’s filing point-blankly declares. “Yet through this demurrer Defendants seek to hold Plaintiff to an improperly high fact-pleading standard while misrepresenting the holding of cases that actually support the viability of Plaintiff’s claims,” his lawyers noted. “Accordingly, the instant demurrer should be denied in its entirety.”
With a WGA election fast approaching and more legal moves among the big boys coming soon, let’s see where this all stands come August 4.