'Judge Faith' TV Show Premieres Amid Legal Drama

On Monday, the same day that Judge Faith was scheduled to premiere in syndication, Jerry Kupcinet sued over being excluded from the TV show.

Kupcinet is most notable for producing Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown, and according to a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, was on his way towards taking the helm of the new judge television show, which features former New York District Attorney Prosecutor Faith Jenkins.

The lawsuit says that in October 2013, he was approached by Hank Cohen, a co-defendant and long-time friend about Judge Faith. An oral agreement allegedly came whereby Kupcinet would direct the first episode and then become an executive producer and director of further episodes if the show was ordered.

The contracts between the parties figures to be the center of focus in this case.

Kupcinet says he later entered into a written agreement that discussed only the pilot and removed all rights he had on Judge Faith. According to the complaint, he "was fraudulently induced to enter into and execute the written agreement when he was presented with a copy of the agreement by Defendant Trifecta Entertainment while at the office signing checks on behalf of all involved for the production of the pilot for Judge Faith."

The fraud allegedly came when he was told the new agreement meant Trifecta owned Judge Faith, and that "this was needed so that the show could be sold."

Kupcinet points to extrinsic evidence supporting his intended involvement in the program and his performance under the oral agreement. He says his production company handled costs with vendors and that he called in favors to ensure that the pilot was made inexpensively. He adds that he obtained a waiver for himself for the first year of residuals under the Directors Guild of America agreement and created the shooting schedule and budget for episodes after the pilot.

The plaintiff's involvement in Judge Faith ended because co-defendant Michael Eisner wanted him out, reports the complaint. Afterwards, Eisner's Tornante Company committed to fund 150 episodes.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner