Anti-Merger Lawsuit Lives on Even Though SAG Doesn't

A month after merger, a dissolved defendant – SAG – files an answer in a suit that it argues is both stale and premature.

SAG filed its answer today in the federal lawsuit brought in February by opponents of SAG/AFTRA merger who sought to enjoin the merger referendum ballot count.

Yes, the lawsuit lives on, even though the judge denied the injunction four weeks ago and merger passed overwhelmingly, with an 82 percent thumbs up from SAG members and 86 percent from AFTRA.

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And, no, “SAG filed its answer” is not a typo. In a bizarre twist, the suit as it stands continues to name the now defunct organization as a defendant. The SAG/AFTRA merger agreement says that the new union “shall be substituted for SAG . . . as a party to any suit” in which SAG is a party, and SAG-AFTRA and the plaintiffs stipulated to such a substitution – but the stipulation was denied ten days ago by federal judge James Otero.

A source told The Hollywood Reporter that the proper procedure is apparently for the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to name the new defendant as successor to the old. However, no such amended complaint has been submitted in the case, resulting in today’s filing on behalf of an entity that no longer exists: “Screen Actors Guild, a dissolved corporation.”

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The answer contends, among other things, that the lawsuit is moot now that merger has passed; is not ripe (i.e., is premature), in that the claimed future impairment of SAG members’ pension and health benefits is speculative and has not actually occurred; and is an attempt to get the court to inappropriately intrude into internal union affairs. The filing asks that the lawsuit be dismissed and that the union be awarded its attorneys fees and costs.

A similar answer was filed today by the individual defendants in the suit, SAG-AFTRA co-president Ken Howard, co-secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino and executive vice-president Ned Vaughn, vice-presidents Mike Hodge and David Hartley-Margolin and national executive director David White.

As THR previously reported, the current lawsuit is the fourth filed by in the last six years against SAG by members of the MembershipFirst group, whose leaders are key plaintiffs in the current suit.

The plaintiffs in the case are Martin Sheen, Edward Asner, Ed Harris, Valerie Harper, Clancy Brown, James Remar, George Coe, Diane Ladd, Lainie Kazan, Nichelle Nichols, Renee Aubry, Jane Austin, Erick Avari, Steve Barr, Sara Barrett, Terrance Beasor, Michael Bell, Warren Berlinger, Joe Bologna, Ralph Brennen, Alexandra Castro, Jude Ciccolella, Cynthia Lea Clark, David Clennon, Joe D’Angerio, Patricia D’Arbanville, Dick Gautier, Dorothy Goulah, Marty Grey, Sumi Haru, Angel Harper, Basil Hoffman, David Huddleston, Anne-Marie Johnson, David Jolliffe, Kerrie Keane, Peter Kwong, Kurt Lott, Barbara Luna, Eric Lutes, Stephen Macht, Michael McConnohie, Peter Antico, Susan McNabb, Phyllis Timbes, Marguerite Moreau, Traci Murray, Nicole Mandich, Larry Newman, Barbara Niven, Kathleen Nolan, Jack Ong, Peggy Lane O’Rourke, Leslie Parrish, Scott Pierce, Robin Riker, Stephanie Rose, Alan Rosenberg, Alan Ruck, Wendy Schaal, Tascha Schaal, Nancy Sinatra, Cynthia Steele, Renee Taylor, Malachi Throne, Beverly Todd, Jessica WrightandMomo Yashima. In addition, there are a number of other clients in the litigation who are not listed as plaintiffs, including Paul Edney.

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Twitter: @jhandel

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