A judge said Tuesday she is inclined to dismiss a writer’s lawsuit alleging that Creative Artists Agency gave an idea he pitched for a never-aired drama series inspired by the life and work of Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, to a better-known client without compensating the plaintiff.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco said in a tentative ruling that she agrees with lawyers for CAA that John Musero’s suit alleging he created the idea for “Main Justice” should be tossed on free-speech grounds.
“The court finds that the creation and production of `Main Justice’ is a matter of public interest for the reasons cited by defendants,” Orozco wrote.
However, she said she wants to study the issues further and took the case under submission. She did not say when she would rule.
John Musero sued CAA on March 26 along with agents Andrew Miller and Leah Yerushalaim, who he says agreed to represent him in 2014. Musero alleges the pair failed to market his script for “Main Justice” and later redeveloped it with Jerry Bruckheimer and writer client Sascha Penn without his knowledge and permission and sold it to CBS.
Musero said in a sworn statement that he sent the agents a 63-page script for a pilot episode in November 2015.
“That script opened with a scene involving a car crash and then cut to a scene in which two main characters analogize fouls in sports to the legal process during a basketball game,” Musero said. “The pilot ends with a shocking assassination attempt on the attorney general on the streets of Washington D.C. at night.”
But in her tentative ruling, the judge said she was not convinced Penn stole Musero’s ideas.
“Although plaintiff provides evidence of the similarities of the two scripts, plaintiff has failed to provide evidence that Penn had access to his script or ideas,” the judge said, adding that “similarities that do not result from copying are similarities without legal significance.”
Musero’s lawyer, Stephen Doniger, was blunt in his assessment of the judge’s tentative ruling.
“I think you got this wrong,” he told Orozco.
In addition, “Main Justice” never aired and is “sitting on a shelf somewhere,” Doniger told the judge.
He said outside the courtroom that if the judge adopts her tentative ruling, he and his client will discuss a possible appeal.
In his court papers, Doniger said Musero’s case has nothing to do with free speech and protected activity.
“The crux of this case is that of plaintiff’s agents acting in a way that was antithetical to plaintiff’s interests,” Doniger wrote. “Despite defendants’ efforts to color it so, the television show and its production is not the issue and never has been.”
In their court papers, CAA lawyers maintained that the case was indeed about protected activity.
“Not only was the show about the country’s first black attorney general, it was also being created (and named), in part, by the country’s first black attorney general,” the CAA lawyers stated in their court papers. “In dodging his own pleadings, the plaintiff wants this court to believe that the allegation which forms the basis of this … motion is something other than the creation of a television show.”
The lawsuit “clearly alleges that defendants misappropriated (Musero) creative work and developed or created their own show in conjunction with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Bruckheimer TV and writer Penn,” the CAA lawyers state in their court papers. “Black letter law dictates that these would be protected activities, if true.”