Monday, January 08, 2007

Wagner v. Columbia Pictures (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 8, 2007)

When you're representing Robert Wagner -- you know, the movie star -- and are suing Columbia Pictures (you know, the movie studio) for half of the profits to the Charlie's Angels movies, you're obviously (1) a very, very good attorney, and (2) are sufficiently motivated by the amount at stake -- the two movies grossed over $500 million worldwide -- to do a bangup job. Ditto, by the way, if you're representing Columbia Pictures.

So it's no surprise to anyone that on such an interesting and high-profile case, the attorneys write great briefs and are outstanding advocates. Of course, in the end, one side has to lose. And, in this case, it's the attorneys for Robert Wagner. Sure, Wagner entered into a contract in which he (and his wife, Natalie Wood) are entitled to 50 percent of the net profits from any ancillary rights associated with the Charlie's Angels television series. But according to Justice Johnson, that doesn't include the subsequent movies based on the series. Affirmed. (I did not know, by the way, that Charlie's Angels was the brainchild of Wagner and Wood. Neat.)

Read the opinion for more fascinating Hollywood details, as well as a review of how these deals are often structured (as well as what they mean). Make sure also not to skip footnote 1. Because, as I said, it comes as no surprise that the attorneys here are very good. But Justice Johnson includes in this footnote about as nice of a compliment to counsel -- and a self-effacing one, at that -- as I've ever read:

"This unusually complex case was well briefed and ably argued by counsel for both parties. Beyond the normal round of briefs and oral argument, counsel responded to two requests for letter briefs from the court and returned for a second oral argument. If we have erred in our resolution of the issues it was not for counsels’ lack of effort to set us straight."

Nice, huh? Given this statement, the attorneys definitely deserve mention by name: Samuel Pryor (a Yalie), Sally Liu (Boalt), and Matthew Belloni (USC) for Robert Wagner, and Martin Katz (Michigan), Lisa Stutz (ditto), and Jean-Paul Jassy (USC) for Columbia Pictures.

Way to go, all.