Friday, December 1, 2006
Arbitrator Lacks Jurisdiction Over Dispute Involving TV Judge—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Labor Commissioner has jurisdiction in a dispute between an artist and his talent manager to determine whether the manager was acting as an unlicensed talent agent, despite an arbitration clause in the agreement, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. One affirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Haley J. Fromholz’s order denying Arnold M. Preston’s motion to compel arbitration of his dispute with Alex E. Ferrer, and granting Ferrer’s motion to stay any action pending final resolution by the commissioner.
Preston is an attorney who renders services for motion picture and television artists. Ferrer is a former Circuit Court judge in Miami-Dade County, Florida, who now arbitrates legal disputes on the Fox television show Judge Alex.
In 2002, Preston and Ferrer signed a management contract that contained an arbitration clause providing that the parties would arbitrate any attack on the “validity or legality” of the contract. In 2005 Preston initiated an arbitration against Ferrer seeking to recover fees to which he claimed he was entitled based on Ferrer’s earnings from the Judge Alex show.
Ferrer filed suit seeking a declaration that the validity of the contract was not subject to arbitration, and moved to stay the arbitration. Preston moved to compel arbitration.
Ferrer contended that Preston was an unlicensed talent agent, and therefore their agreement was void, and that Preston was barred from recovering any compensation pursuant to it. Preston claimed he was acting as a personal manager, not as a talent agent.
After Fromholz’s denied Preston’s motion to compel arbitration, Preston appealed, contending that the question of the contract’s validity should be determined by the arbitrator.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frank Jackson, sitting on assignment and writing for Div. One, disagreed. Jackson noted that the Talent Agencies Act has been interpreted as vesting exclusive original jurisdiction in the commissioner to resolve issues arising thereunder—including whether or not an individual is a personal manager or an unlicensed talent agent.
“The administrative procedures before the Commissioner must be resolved before resort may be had to another tribunal. Contrary to defendant’s
suggestion, the fact that plaintiff is a sophisticated individual, with significant legal experience does not alter the . . . procedure to follow.”
Justice Robert M. Mallano concurred in the opinion.
Justice Miriam A. Vogel dissented, saying:
“When a former judge and a lawyer enter a contract in which they agree that any dispute about that contract will be resolved by arbitration, I think they ought to be bound by that agreement.”
“Instead of the speedy, efficient, and relatively inexpensive procedure contemplated by the parties’ contract, my colleagues have permitted Ferrer to cause a delay of years and triple or quadruple the parties’ expenditures. . . . That is not how it is supposed to work.”
Preston was represented by Joseph D. Schleimer of Schleimer & Freundlich in Beverly Hills. Ferrer was represented by Kirsten E. Miller of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles.
The case is Ferrer v. Preston, B188997.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company