WGA West presidential candidate Phyllis Nagy is accusing the guild’s leaders of “electioneering” in their latest legal maneuver against Hollywood’s talent agencies. WGA West president David Goodman has fired back, calling her claims “reckless and inflammatory.”
Their exchange comes after the guild dropped its lawsuit against the Big 4 talent agencies and filed counter-claims in the federal antitrust case that CAA, WME and UTA had previously brought against the guild.
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“This is electioneering, pure and simple,” Nagy said in a statement posted on her WGA Forward Together website. “On September 5, rulings on the motions and demurrers to dismiss those state claims—including the WGA’s standing in the cases—were to be handed down. From reading the briefs filed in this matter, it was clear that one or more of those motions would have ended in the Guild’s claims being dismissed outright or dismissed with leave to amend. Leadership saw the writing on the wall.”
“Leadership attempted to use this hearing as an election ploy,” she wrote, “when it attempted to move the date of this hearing to several days after the results of the current election. Faced with defeat, and having wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars, leadership retreated to a September 5 date, well before the voting would be done.
“Read the filings in the case. You’ll see what happened. Whatever the merits of the newly consolidated federal claims, there is no way these new claims will have any bearing on the election results. Leadership made sure of that. Make no mistake about what’s going on here. It has nothing to do with just and righteous lawsuits and everything to do with a bald desire to win an election by hiding the truth from all concerned.”
Read the WGA’s counterclaim filings here:
Goodman, in a fiery response, told Deadline: “Ms. Nagy, whose résumé does not suggest that she has any form of legal education, has made some extraordinary claims. She determined that the agencies would have prevailed in state court having read only the agencies’ briefs, and not the Guild’s responses, because the Guild’s responses have yet to be filed. This would be absurd on its face, not to mention an embarrassment, had she simply said these things in private. Stating these claims in public, with a certainty that defies explanation, is reckless and inflammatory, and makes one wonder from whom she is getting her legal advice.”
“The Guild’s legal strategy,” he said, “is crafted with advice from counsel who operate under a fiduciary duty to the entire membership and without regard to Guild politics. The reasons for the change of venue are described fully in the materials the Guild sent to the membership today. I will not repeat those reasons here. I will say this: the Guild expects to prevail in federal court, as it expected to prevail in state court. Our counsel has made it clear that consolidation of claims is a standard and unremarkable legal practice. Running for president gives Ms. Nagy a pulpit. But that comes with a responsibility to be careful and accurate. Her statements today fail on both counts.”
In response, Nagy said: “It does not take legal training to read the leadership’s written arguments to postpone the state court judge’s hearing on the motions to dismiss. The only reasonable interpretation is that the WGA leadership did not want the issue of its ill-considered action to file suit against the major agencies coming up before voting on the WGA election had been completed. The WGA counsel and its leadership clearly knew it had a losing case in state court and is now trying to spin the matter to justify dismissing its expensive suit in search of a new court. In legal terms, if you will, avoiding the Latin language ‘the thing speaks for itself.’”
To support her argument, she pointed to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Highberger’s July 23 written finding that the guild did not have reasonable cause to delay a hearing on the agencies’ demurrers and motions to dismiss the suit until after the guild’s upcoming elections. “You can’t start a fight and then expect a recess,” he wrote.
It’s the second time this month that members of her slate of running mates have accused guild leaders of electioneering — using guild resources to further the candidacies of incumbents. That charge was first raised after the first of three WGA membership meetings about the agency campaign — a charge Goodman vehemently denied.
On Monday, Nagy said that the guild’s ongoing standoff with the Association of Talent Agents threatens to “permanently destroy the primacy writers have enjoyed in television,” and will lead to a strike next May against the major studios.