2:54pm PT by Alex Ben Block
Golden Globes Trial Won't Begin Before March 2012
The trial between the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Dick Clark Productions to decide who controls broadcast rights to the highly rated Golden Globe Awards -- after being postponed at the last minute in September -- will now probably not happen before March 2012 and could be put off until sometime late next summer or beyond.
That’s the timing being considered by Howard A. Matz, the new federal judge in Los Angeles, who will oversee the case, and ultimately decide which side prevails (since both sides have agreed there will be no jury).
However, the HFPA filed a motion Thursday asking that the court date be set sooner than that because "postponing trial until next summer will prolong the present uncertainty regarding the broadcast right," explains the filing, “and undermine substantial efforts… to streamline the issues in this case to secure a prompt adjudication of the parties' rights."
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The new judge in the case has scheduled a pre-trial status conference for the end of November. However, the HFPA in their filing asked for a telephone conference call before that -- as soon as next week -- to speed up the process, and hopefully arrange for a trial to commence sooner than what is being discussed. The HFPA filing notes that all of the pre-trial work in the case was completed, including various motions and witness lists, before the last minute cancellation; so both sides are essentially ready to go.
According to the filing there is another issue. Attorney Daniel Petrocelli, who is co-counsel for the HFPA with Linda J. Smith, will not be available for trial between February and July 2012, due to other obligations.
After the trial was postponed in September because the judge then expected to try the case became ill, both sides agreed to a deal with NBC to carry the Globes telecast January 15, 2012, so as not to disrupt the show. However, the HFPA filing says despite this "one-time, non-precedential agreement… an expeditious resolution…remains of paramount importance."
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Another source said that the pressure to have a trial as soon as January is largely driven by Petrocelli's not being available for such a long period next spring and summer. Based on his unavailability, the judge could not schedule the trial before next August or some time after that.
Such a postponement could mean the rights for the 2013 Globes telecast could again become an issue, which might lead to another one-year contract extension with NBC. That would be fine with Dick Clark, said the source, but would not be what the HFPA wants to happen.
There have been unconfirmed reports that there were mediation attempts in the past few months to try and reach an out of court settlement, but they were not successful.
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The trial, which is expected to last about 8 business days, is anticipated to be the first of two phases in the litigation. In this first phase they will decide whether a clause in a previous contract in fact gives Dick Clark the right to continue as producer of the Globes as long as it airs on NBC.
Dick Clark Productions had negotiated a new pact with NBC to carry the show without the approval of the HFPA, which was a key issue that led to litigation between the two longtime business partners. The HFPA has said it wants a new producer and to put the Globe rights up for auction to the highest bidder.