Judge Won't Speed Up 'Ender's Game' Commission Dispute

Orson Scott Card's ex-manager finds herself in TAA purgatory.

Not that talent managers needed another reason to detest California's Talent Agencies Act, but a Los Angeles judge has given them one.

It comes in a dispute concerning Ender's Game, the film based on sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card's novel that is set to be released on Nov. 1. As Card's former rep, Niad Management is demanding 10 percent of his income from the film. In reaction, Card filed a petition with California's Labor Commissioner that asserted that Niad had violated the Talent Agencies Act, which says that only licensed talent agents can procure employment for clients.

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The problem is that since the Labor Commissioner conducted a full-day hearing in January 2012, it hasn't done much. Niad's attorney has begged the California agency for an estimate as to when to expect a ruling, and heard little. So, Niad attempted to get Judge Ralph Dau to lift the stay on the case.

In a ruling this week, the judge denied the request, potentially meaning that talent managers in TAA disputes can be subjected to commissions purgatory.

Robert Gookin, Niad's attorney, argued that the administrative remedy "has been exhausted as a result of the Labor Commissioner's unreasonable delay" and that the Labor Commissioner's initial jurisdiction in the matter was "merely colorable."

"This argument is not well taken," responds Judge Dau.

If the Labor Commissioner determines that Niad violated the TAA, it could invalidate the contract that Card had with his manager to provide commissions. "Because the validity of the contract is an important underlying issue in this action, and because the Labor Commissioner must determine this issue, its jurisdiction has not been shown to be 'merely colorable.' "

Judge Dau adds, "There is no evidence that the Labor Commissioner does not intend to issue a ruling or that it has otherwise abandoned the proceedings."

Thus, not only do talent managers face TAA penalties, they can wait forever to find out.

The National Conference of Personal Managers would prefer that the TAA be erased. Last November, the group brought a lawsuit that argued the statute was unconstitutional, but in March, a judge dismissed the claims. The same day that Card's ex-manager was getting the bad news from a Los Angeles judge, the NCOPM filed a brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals aimed at invalidating the TAA.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner