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MAR
8
1 years

Judge Won't Sanction Attorney of Superman Creators' Heirs

There was "no deliberate attempt to mislead," a judge rules in turning down Warner Bros.' efforts to punish Marc Toberoff for alleged discovery misconduct.

Henry Cavill in Man of Steel - H 2011
Henry Cavill in "Man of Steel"

Marc Toberoff, the attorney representing the estates of Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, got some welcome news after a disappointing few months in battles over rights.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright has denied Warner Bros.' bid for sanctions against Toberoff.

The studio's DC Comics subsidiary demanded that Toberoff be penalized for how he has shielded documents on the basis of attorney-client privilege in the discovery process.

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But the judge references some of the drama over many of the documents in question. As The Hollywood Reporter has covered before, Toberoff had documents stolen from him, and after cooperating with authorities in the investigation of the theft, an appeals court ruled that Warners could use them.

Wright said he has reviewed the vast discovery records of this case.

"The Court comes away from the investigation with the view that DC's Motion for Evidentiary Sanctions is really just a rehashing of the tortured course of discovery in these Superman matters," he wrote.

The judge said he was "deeply troubled" by Toberoff's failure to update privilege logs but determined there was "no deliberate attempt to mislead."

Here's the full ruling.

What might be more important is the judge's address of Warners' claim that Toberoff tortuously interfered with its rights on Superman when he allegedly interjected himself during settlement discussions in 2001, when the Siegel estate came to an agreement with the studio before pulling back and filing a lawsuit to confirm that rights to Superman were terminated.

Wright decided that the letters in question -- the ones stolen that were then allowed to be used -- "actually serve more to discredit DC's cries of intentional interference than they do to bolster them."

The judge has not ruled yet on the merits of the claim, however.

After the big Ninth Circuit ruling earlier this year, the case proceeds with new arguments.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner