Contending with a strong and consistent backlash from top talent and PR powerhouses over its lack of any Black members, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had a bit of a good day for once, at least on the legal front.
Late Tuesday, a federal judge tossed out the remnants of an antitrust suit against the Golden Globes hosting group by Norwegian and Spanish journalists who wanted to join the 87-member HFPA – and Judge Stanley Blumenfeld shut the door hard.
“Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint is DISMISSED without leave to amend,” said the U.S. District Judge in a March 23 ruling made public today (read it here).
“In denying leave to amend, the Court has concluded that it would be futile to give Plaintiffs another opportunity to do so,” added Judge Blumenfeld in the often mordacious 14-page order against Kjersti Flaa and Rosa Gamazo Robbins. “When given a second chance, Plaintiffs fashioned an antitrust theory that is creative but implausible and contradictory. And it is increasingly apparent that many of the allegations in the original and amended complaint stand immovably in the way of stating a viable antitrust claim.”
Needless to say, with warnings of talent boycotts and more if the diversity of their group doesn’t grow ASAP, the HFPA and its upper echelon took an effusive victory lap today.
“We applaud the Court’s unequivocal rejection of Ms. Flaa’s and Ms. Robbins’ frivolous lawsuit, which was filled with nothing more than salacious and false allegations against the HFPA and members Meher Tatna, Tina Jøhnk Christensen, Aniko Navai and Aud Morisse,” said the besieged group in a statement.
Rejected on several occasions for membership in the HFPA Flaa sued the group last summer with a sprawling complaint that included claims for violations of the right of fair procedure and the antitrust laws and for declaratory relief. At the time the then Lorenzo Soria-led HFPA termed the action a “shake down.” On October 5, the HFPA’s Latham & Watkins LLP attorneys filed a motion to dismiss based in no small part on the premise that Flaa had a pretty good gig going covering Hollywood already
Cut forward to late November, as awards season was heating up, virtually and otherwise, and Judge Blumenfeld granted most of the HFPA’s motion in ruling that the group isn’t a “quasi-public entity.” He also noted that Flaa had indeed been doing pretty good for herself even without membership in highly restricted gang and its supposed privileged access to talent because of the Golden Globes.
However, the judge did give the Nordic Oscar Weekend host the opportunity to amend the remaining antitrust aspect of the initial suit. An opportunity that Flaa and her lead attorney David Quinto, who was one of AMPAS’ main lawyers for many years, took on December 4 with Robbins now joining the case as a plaintiff.
That first amended complaint clearly didn’t gain much traction on where things were at before in the judge’s opinion
“The antitrust construct, moreover, is a tenuous one,” he wrote in the latest dismissal. “If access to Hollywood talent is a necessary element of business survival, then Plaintiffs fail to reasonably explain how they have managed to succeed as foreign entertainment news reporters for so many years without it.”
Flaa and Robbin’s lawyer Quinto did not respond to request for comment on the new dismissal. As for the HFPA, they may be feeling good today, but much greater storm clouds have gathered since Flaa first took them to court — ones not so easily dismissed.