'NCIS' Trial: Will Les Moonves Take Witness Stand?
CBS Asks New York Court to Dismiss Aereo's Lawsuit
On Jan. 14, Donald Bellisario, the 77-year-old creator of two of CBS' biggest hits, NCIS and JAG, is tentatively scheduled to go to trial against CBS in a lawsuit that contends the network owes him tens of millions of dollars from NCIS: Los Angeles -- which he alleges is a spinoff of JAG and, as such, he was contractually entitled to a share of its revenue.
The reason the trial date isn't etched in stone is that Bellisario recently revealed that he has a serious brain condition, and CBS is attempting to subpoena Bellisario's medical records and depose his physicians. Bellisario is objecting to any delay, and a hearing is scheduled for Dec. 11 in Los Angeles Superior Court to discuss the issue. The judge also night cancel the trial if he accepts CBS' position that Bellisario's claims are time-barred.
But in the meantime, with a possible high-stakes Hollywood trial just around the corner, both sides have begun prepping the cases that will be presented to a jury. Often, it's the pretrial determinations on who will be testifying and what evidence will be admitted that ultimately influence which side emerges victorious. On Tuesday, both CBS and Bellisario made their motions on this front, fussing over which experts will take the witness stand and whether periodicals can be cited on the analysis of TV shows, contractual interpretations and more.
Here are just a few examples of the issues the two sides are fighting over on the road to a trial:
Which side gets portrayed as wealthy and greedy?
Earlier this week, an appellate court upheld a $319 million verdict against the Walt Disney Co. and in favor of the producer of the ABC series Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It was the largest verdict in a profits case in Hollywood history, and one of the lessons from what happened was that juries are not hesitant to award huge damages to creative types who cry foul over "Hollywood accounting."
Perhaps with this in mind, CBS is a tad sensitive about how it is about to be portrayed before a jury. The network has brought a motion to exclude discussion about the profits it has made on NCIS, JAG and NCIS: Los Angeles, as well as talk about CBS Corp.'s wealth. According to CBS' motion:
"Indeed, Plaintiffs would have no reason for offering such evidence or making such statements other than to gain sympathy for the Plaintiffs, instill bias in the jurors' minds against CBS by creating the impression that Bellisario is a 'little guy' standing up against a 'big guy' wealthy corporation, and suggest that CBS can afford a big verdict. It is likely that Plaintiffs will make reference to these topics in an attempt to portray the Plaintiffs as the financial underdogs in a battle against CBS, a wealthy, greedy corporation interested in nothing more than making a profit."
But on the other hand, CBS believes it is entirely appropriate to discuss the enormous amount of money that Bellisario already has earned. CBS says that it intends to introduce the fact that he has already been paid in excess of $116 million for the shows. Here's the argument on why that is kosher:
"The monies paid to Bellisario in his connection with his work on JAG and NCIS are in fact relevant, because they show that Bellisario has in fact already been paid for his work on JAG, and for the planted spinoff of JAG, NCIS. In other words, they are relevant to challenge Plaintiffs' allegations that CBS has 'exploited the Bellisario-created JAG/NCIS universe for its economic benefit' by establishing that CBS has compensated Bellisario handsomely for his work on JAG and NCIS."