January 29, 2014 1:23pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Ed Asner's SAG-AFTRA Lawsuit Dismissed
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Ed Asner and others over alleged improprieties in SAG-AFTRA’s foreign levies and residuals programs.
The legal action was filed in May and challenges whether the unions incompetently ran their foreign royalty system in a manner designed to improperly funnel money into the union's general fund. The plaintiffs have blasted the union for “the extreme web these parties have woven to steal money that rightfully belongs to U.S. performers, if not others as well.”
But after the lawsuit came, it was challenged on multiple grounds. One of SAG-AFTRA’s arguments was that the issues had already been adjudicated in separate litigation brought by Leave it to Beaver’s Ken Osmond. That class action was settled in 2010, and the unions believed the settlement binding on many of the plaintiffs.
The unions also attacked the lawsuit as a speculative claim from 17 of its 160,000 members over an undetermined amount of money.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real questioned the "ripeness" of the lawsuit.
"At this point in time it is apparent that SAG-AFTRA is working with Plaintiffs to allow them to examine records SAG-AFTRA believes they are entitled to examine," says Real's ruling. "The dispute over such an examination is therefore not 'definite and concrete,' because it is not even clear which books and records, if any, are not being proffered for examination."
Because of that, the judge declined to exercise jurisdiction. He also dismissed related state law claims for conversion and unfair business practices, saying that in the absence of a live federal claim, he had no jurisdiction over the state law matters.
The ruling doesn't foreclose the possibility that the parties will figure out a way to resolve an examination of SAG-AFTRA’s records, that Asner and others will still be dissatisfied with what they find, and that a new lawsuit will be drawn up at a later date. It's also possible that Asner and others could refile the state law claims in state court.
Jonathan Handel contributed reporting.