11:10am PT by Ashley Cullins
'Judge Judy' Profits Fight Gets Another Spinoff
Earlier this year, a lawsuit over profits from Judge Judy settled quietly with the help of a mediator — but it seems the fight isn't over.
On Tuesday, Rebel Entertainment Partners, the successor in interest to the talent agency that packaged the series, filed another lawsuit against CBS and its Big Ticket Entertainment division. This time, the dispute is centered on the sale of the Judge Judy library, which Judy Sheindlin reportedly bought for cheap and then sold back to CBS for a hefty profit.
According to the complaint, before he was ousted, former CBS head Les Moonves conspired with other CBS executives "to avoid embarrassment over his colossal mismanagement of the sale and repurchase" of the catalogue.
"In 2015, Moonves and his loyal lieutenant [Armando] Nuñez seriously underestimated the value of the library and sold the rights to these episodes to series star Judith Sheindlin for a song," writes attorney Bryan Freedman in the complaint. The judge-turned-star knew she was "sitting on a gold mine," however, and Rebel claims when Moonves learned she was shopping it for around $200 million he realized "he would look like an incompetent buffoon" if the CBS board of directors found out.
The board would have to approve any purchase over $100 million, according to the complaint, and therefore Rebel says CBS paid Sheindlin between $95-99 million to evade scrutiny.
In defending a different suit from Kaye Switzer and the Sandi Spreckman Trust, CBS disputed that the library was ever sold. Switzer and Spreckman were the ones who approached Sheindlein in the mid-'90s suggesting that she should consider TV, and they say they're owed about $5 million from that sale.
Rebel, which originally sued claiming that Sheindlin's $47 million salary was improperly being deducted as an expense and shorting profit participants, now says it's also owed a share of the library sale.
"Now that Viacom is in a position to oversee the behavior of CBS leadership, it is time for the new leadership it installed to make a sincere effort to right the wrongful conduct that has been a systemic problem at CBS," said Freedman in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "Just treat people better, whether that is employees or profit participants. It is not that difficult to do the right thing"
Sheindlin, who's among the defendants this time, on Tuesday sent THR a statement with a challenge directed at Rebel Entertainment president Richard Lawrence. "I have not seen the complaint and can therefore only comment on what I have read, which suggests that I am being sued for 'breach of contract,'" Sheindlin said. "If that is the basis of Mr. Lawrence’s lawsuit, here is my challenge: If Mr. Lawrence can produce a contract, signed by me and Mr. Lawrence on the same page, at any time in history from the beginning of time, I will toast that contract, smear it with cream cheese and eat it on national television."
ViacomCBS has not yet commented on the suit.