Entertainment Law

Oscar.JPG“The winners never thank their lawyers,” said AmLaw Daily recently in an interview with James Cameron’s attorneys. But some lawyers did get love at the Oscars this year, as noted by Business Insider:

If you paid close attention to last night’s Oscar ceremony, amid the tears and triumphs, a couple of lawyers got their thanks.

If you paid close attention, we’re sorry — because you probably noticed Kristen Stewart hawking up something during her speech, and how scary Judd Nelson looked during the John Hughes montage. Overall, the show was painful to watch.
We stuck around long enough to see Best Supporting Actress Mo’Nique give her lawyer, Ricky Anderson, a nod. But when dancers came out on the stage to “interpret” Sherlock Holmes, we turned off the TV in disgust. Thus, we missed out on Jeff Bridges thanking his power lawyer, Bob Wallerstein.
Let’s take a closer look at these two celebrated attorneys.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyerly Shout-Outs at the Oscars”

Conan's writers composing a tweet.jpgConan O’Brien and NBC parted ways in January. Despite rumors to the contrary, Conan’s attorneys — Patricia Glaser and Leigh Brecheen — told us that their client was pleased with his $32.5 million exit settlement with NBC.

As Leno takes the helm at the Tonight Show, Conan is moving on. He’s joined Twitter, and he’s working on a new show. Apparently, Conan was pleased enough with his settlement to keep working with NBC. The network has picked up a new pilot from Conan’s production company, Conaco.

Conan appears to have been inspired by all the time he spent with lawyers recently. The show is called “Justice.” It’s about a Supreme Court justice going into private practice. It will be filmed in Philadelphia, and — attention, unemployed Philly attorneys — they’re currently looking for “background talent,” a.k.a. extras…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Conan O’Brien and NBC Team Up For ‘Justice’”

Conan in jesus pose.jpgLast week, we spoke with Conan O’Brien’s high-profile attorneys: Patricia Glaser of Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro and Leigh Brecheen of Beverly Hills entertainment boutique Bloom Hergott Diemer Rosenthal LaViolette Feldman and Goodman.

Brecheen is O’Brien’s contracts lawyer and Glaser is the attorney O’Brien brought in when NBC informed him that it wanted to change his Tonight Show to The Next Day Show.

When the Conan-NBC showdown was happening, the media were critical of the contract that Conan had, in large part because there was reportedly no timeslot language. Though subsequently, it’s been suggested by people who have seen the contract that this is untrue, and that timeslot language was in the contract.

The New York Post wrote:

The decision to let O’Brien walk apparently came down to who was cheaper to let go.

Leno has an ironclad, “brilliantly written” agreement that guarantees his production company a staggering $150 million if NBC Universal axes his flailing primetime show, an insider said.

That led us to praise Leno’s contract and its creator Ken Ziffren of Ziffren Brittenham, and to question the strength of O’Brien’s contract.

On Friday, Glaser and Brecheen called to set the record straight…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Another Perspective on Conan’s Contract”


Conan Leno.jpgOn Tuesday, we tuned in to the late night show debacle unfolding at NBC. On his show that night, Conan O’Brien shared insights about the lawyerly wranglings. From US Magazine:

“Hi, I’m Conan O’Brien, and I’m just three days away from the biggest drinking binge in history,” he said during Tuesday’s monologue. “I spent the afternoon at Universal Studios’ amusement park, enjoying their brand-new ride, the ‘Tunnel of Litigation.'”

Noting reports that he is legally prohibited from bad-mouthing the network behind the mess (Jay Leno is taking over O’Brien’s time slot after his prime time show was axed), O’Brien joked in his monologue Tuesday “Nobody said anything about speaking in Spanish.”

He then rails off an insult in Spanish which translates to: “NBC is run by brainless sons of goats who eat money and crap trouble.”

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the Litigation Rollercoaster Ride rolled to a stop at 1 a.m. PST, thanks to operators at Gibson Dunn and Glaser Weil.

The final deal includes a payout of approximately $32.5 million for Mr. O’Brien and roughly $12 million for his staff, according a person familiar with the matter. The agreement will allow Mr. O’Brien to appear on another network beginning Sept. 1, the person said….

NBC, which is controlled by General Electric Co., will retain the rights to at least some of the comedic material from the show, according to people familiar with the matter. The deal also includes a non-disparagement clause, both for the 46-year-old comedian and NBC, and a provision that was said to bar or limit Mr. O’Brien from appearing on others’ shows for a period of time, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

Jay Leno gets to reclaim his 11:35 p.m. show starting March 1. Meanwhile, David Letterman is probably just happy that Leno and Conan are monopolizing the late night news cycle instead of his own legal troubles.

What impact will this $45-million ruffling of the Peacock Network’s feathers have on entertainment law practices?

Two experts opine on what this means for the entertainment law industry, and the major takeaway lesson for talent lawyers, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “What Does the Conan-Leno-NBC Debacle Mean for Entertainment Law?”

conan o'brien.jpgFor the first time in a while, insomniacs are tuning into a late night show that doesn’t star Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.
Everyone loves a good fight. The Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and NBC squabble may be more entertaining than Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel have both knocked Leno. Even J-Lo has thrown some punchlines.
The National Law Journal has reported on the lawyers that are part of the fray. Patty Glaser and Kevin Leichter, of Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro, are in Conan O’Brien’s corner. Meanwhile, NBC has Gibson Dunn slugging away, having retained power partner Scott Edelman.
The fighters have been trying to figure out what the definition of “The Tonight Show” is — if moved to 12:05 a.m., wouldn’t it be the The Early Morning Show? — and who has ownership of O’Brien’s intellectual property. R.I.P., Masturbating Bear?
The contractual issues may be sorted out any second now, according to the Wall Street Journal….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “‘Bye, everybody, bye!': An End in Sight for the Conan-Leno-NBC Debacle?”

Judge David Young.jpgBack in October 2007, we wondered:

Why does Florida produce so many TV judges? It is because of their penchant, noted by PD Howard Finkelstein, for being rude and abusive?

The following are former Floridian jurists who left the state bench for the boob tube: Marilyn Milian, of the People’s Court (previously discussed here); Alex Ferrer, a/k/a “Judge Alex”; David Young, the gay TV judge; and the notorious Anna Nicole Smith judge, Larry Seidlin (not on air yet, but rumored to arrive in fall 2008).

Sadly, the world is now down two Miami TV judges. One of them, Judge David Young (pictured above), was trying to be The Gay TV Judge.
The country may be growing more receptive to gay marriage. But when it comes to television judges, it seems we like ‘em straight.
Courtroom TV: Two of Miami’s TV judges get the ax [Daily Business Review]

BD-biopic.jpg

If you’re leaving Biglaw and moving to New England to innkeep is not your thing, maybe you should consider moving to Los Angeles to promote music.
The American Lawyer has an interesting piece on a laid-off first-year associate, Brandon Dorsky. He was among the batch of Pillsbury Winthrop associates whose departures were inadvertently leaked by a garrulous partner on the train from D.C. to New York.
Dorsky was doing IP work in Pillsbury’s Los Angeles office. The Ohio native had moved to California with the intent to get into the entertainment industry and so he seized the opportunity provided by being laid off:

After leaving Pillsbury, Dorsky decided to build a practice geared to entertainment clients, while also managing musical acts. He e-mailed friends and business contacts looking for leads. Just three days after leaving the firm, he landed his first client, TRG Sports and Entertainment. A friend from the University of Michigan recommended him to the management company, which was looking for a lawyer to draft a recording contract….
“I’m out most nights,” Dorsky says. “I see five concerts a week. I’m out there looking for new clients and looking for opportunities for existing clients.”

Dorsky’s tale might provide inspiration for other laid-off first years. In addition to working with bands, he’s drafting recording contracts and doing trademark work. Read more about the secret to Dorsky’s success and the importance of being a “hustler” at the American Lawyer.
After the Layoffs [American Lawyer]
Earlier: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to New York
(Or: Pillsbury associates, brace yourselves.)

Terry Christensen Terry N Christensen.jpgAlong with his colorful co-defendant, private investigator Anthony Pellicano, prominent entertainment attorney Terry Christensen is now a convicted felon. Earlier today, a federal jury convicted the pair on conspiracy charges relating to illegal wiretapping.
Not a great way to kick off a holiday weekend. And not good news for the 110-lawyer firm that Christensen founded — Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro.
(That firm name may ring a bell. Name partner Robert Shapiro famously served on O.J. Simpson’s victorious defense team.)
Private eye Anthony Pellicano, attorney Christensen convicted of wiretap plot [Los Angeles Times via WSJ Law Blog]
Terry N. Christensen bio [Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro, LLP]

Pinoy Power Filipino Power Nena Ruiz Above the Law blog.jpgUnlike yesterday — and by the way, we’ll keep the reader poll open for a few more hours — today we have no difficulty picking our Lawyer of the Day. Hollywood lawyer James Jackson maltreated his Filipino maid. We do not like it when you mess with our peeps.
From the AP (via Law.com):

A former Hollywood studio attorney and his wife were sentenced Monday for abusive treatment of their Filipino maid in a case federal prosecutors said “amounts to modern-day slavery.”

James Jackson, the former vice president of legal affairs at Sony Pictures, was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine. His wife, Elizabeth, was sentenced to three years in prison after her attorneys unsuccessfully pleaded for her to receive home detention.

These Hollywood types are ruthless (we’ve watched “Entourage”). Studio lawyers make Biglaw partners look like social workers. Consider the treatment alleged by the former maid in her civil suit against the couple:

[Former maid Nena] Ruiz claimed in her civil lawsuit that Elizabeth Jackson regularly slapped her and pulled her hair. She also said she was forced to sleep on a dog bed and was given three-day-old food to eat even as she was expected to clean and provide fresh fruit to the Jacksons’ pets. The Jacksons only paid her $300 for her work….

See? Studio lawyers are meaner than law firm partners. At least associates get paid $160K for their suffering.
Happily, Nena Ruiz ultimately made out quite well. She was awarded $825,000 in damages by the jury that heard her case.
P.S. In fairness to Mr. Jackson, it appears that much of the abuse was perpetrated by his wife. In her allocution, Elizabeth Jackson told the court: “In my life I have always tried and strived to do the right thing. I failed in this case.” Um, yeah.
P.P.S. A tipster observes: “Is it just me, or have these modern-day slavery stories been popping up a lot lately? See here.”
Former Sony Pictures Lawyer and Wife Sentenced in Forced Labor of Filipino Maid [AP via Law.com]
Hollywood couple sentenced in Filipino maid ‘slave’ case [AFP via Philippine Inquirer]
In Pictures: Long Island Slaver Family On Facebook [Gawker]

Heath Ledger Heath A Ledger Heathcliff Andrew Ledger death overdose suicide Above the Law blog.jpgWe wish we knew how to quit… finding legal angles to every story under the sun. One such story is the recent, tragic death of Heath Ledger, the celebrated young actor.
We’ve noted the news in passing. Now we offer more substantive, law-related discussion (beyond fleeting references to NYU law students who went from their seminars about Jesus to join the crowd of gawkers assembled outside Ledger’s apartment).
1. Rights to remains. Sometimes this can become an issue, as it did in the case of Anna Nicole Smith. Earlier this week, the Ohio Supreme Court heard a case about a law providing that body parts removed during an autopsy are classified as medical waste (which usually results in the incineration, rather than burial with the body).
It fortunately appears this won’t be an issue in Ledger’s case. Although additional blood and tissue testing still needs to be done, his family will be taking custody of his body, according to the NYT’s City Room blog.
2. Pending projects. Heath Ledger’s sudden passing raises issues with respect to projects he was involved with. From the Hollywood Reporter:

Of particular importance to Hollywood will be the future of Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which had very recently begun shooting. After dealing with the shock of losing Ledger to unfortunate circumstances, the film’s producers and lawyers will have to consult with their production lawyers and the insurance firm that indemnified the film to decide whether to recast, restage and/or rewrite the film to work around Ledger’s absence, or whether Ledger’s death presents an irresolvable barrier to completion of the film.

More analysis, including discussion of insurance recovery issues, over here.
3. Funeral protestors. Exact funeral plans for Heath Ledger are not yet known. But when it does happen, it could get ugly. A tipster raises a legal question:

Check out this story [about how members of the antigay Westboro Baptist Church plan to protest at Heath Ledger's funeral, because of his work in "Brokeback Mountain"].

Here’s my question. These [SOBs] are saying horrible, offensive, disgusting things. When does the fighting words doctrine come into play, and does the fighting words doctrine protect me if I punch out one of these bastards? Because I would really like to.

Feel free to opine in the comments.
Update: More about that Jesus seminar, from the WSJ Law Blog.
Heath Ledger’s Death Leaves Big Legal Question [THR, ESQ. / Hollywood Reporter]
Anti-Gay Church to Protest Ledger Funeral [ABC News]
What Are They Teaching at NYU Law These Days? [Traditional Notions]
Where Were You When? [Concurring Opinions]
The Passion of the Christ: The Trial of Jesus [NYU School of Law]

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