Risk Update

Conflicts Allegations: Judicial and Prosecutorial

We covered this matter in May, and now an update: “As writers battle their agents, finding a judge becomes a challenge” —

  • “It’s a judicial dilemma that could only happen in Los Angeles. As Hollywood writers take their fight against talent agents to court, the two sides are contending with an unforeseen challenge: finding a judge who doesn’t have personal ties to the entertainment industry.”
  • “In the month since writers sued Hollywood’s four biggest agencies, challenging the legality of packaging fees, two Los Angeles Superior Court judges have removed themselves from the case after it was revealed both had personal connections to the TV and movie businesses, which the Writers Guild of America argued would constitute a conflict of interest.”
  • “While judicial recusals are common in entertainment cases, experts say that the personal nature of the WGA’s objections is unusual. Litigators typically seek to remove judges from a case based on past rulings, not personal ties.”
  • “The writers’ lawsuit focuses on packaging, a lucrative, decades-old practice in which studios pay agencies money for putting together talent on a show. Writers allege that packaging fees violate state fiduciary law, which requires agents to represent clients with undivided loyalty. They claim agents have prioritized packaging over traditional client representation.”
  • “L.A Superior Court Judge Marc D. Gross withdrew from the case last month after the Writers Guild of America filed a peremptory challenge, noting that his wife once worked for Endeavor Talent Agency, now a part of WME. The agency is one of the four firms named as defendants in the case.”
  • “The case was then assigned to Judge Craig D. Karlan. But the guild lodged another objection, saying that Karlan himself has worked in Hollywood as a writer. In addition, the guild wrote that the judge has been in discussions with CAA about potential projects.”
    “Some legal experts have questioned the ability of lawyers to get judges thrown off cases, saying that it amounts to judge shopping. Some say a personal connection to an industry shouldn’t be an automatic disqualifier.”

And we noted this one, earlier in June, and now: “Judge Removes Lead Prosecutor In Navy SEAL War-Crime Case” —

  • “A military judge has removed the lead prosecutor in the high-profile case of a decorated Navy SEAL accused of war crimes in Iraq. The rare ruling comes a week before the trial is scheduled to begin and after President Trump said he is considering pardons for members of the military who are charged with war crimes.”
  • “Lawyers defending Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher accused prosecutors of spying. They uncovered a digital tracking device that was sent in an email to defense attorneys and a journalist covering the case.”
  • “The lead prosecutor, Navy Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak, admitted in court to emailing the hidden software. He said the code simply tracked the location and time of messages as recipients opened their emails.”
  • “Prosecutors said they were trying to uncover the source of leaked court documents, which persisted despite a gag order. They enlisted the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to look into the leaks.”
  • “But the judge, Navy Capt. Aaron Rugh, said he had not been made aware of the prosecutor’s plan to use trackers on the defense’s emails. The judge ordered Czaplak to step away from the case on Monday because of a potential conflict of interest.”
  • “Rugh said in a motion that he could not conclude whether the prosecutor had violated rules, but that ‘the danger of investigation is sufficiently real,’ according to Navy Times.”