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US: DOJ files request to appear WGA/Agency suit hearing

 |  November 28, 2019

A day after filing a legal brief opposing the Writers Guild of America’s (WGA) motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed against them by Hollywood’s top agencies, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division are taking things a step further and requesting that a federal judge allow them to participate in the dismissal hearing set for December 6.

“The [DOJ] believes that its participation at the December 6 hearing would be of substantial assistance to the Court, and leaves it to the discretion of the Court to decide the form and extent of the [DOJ’s] participation at the hearing,” read the new filing obtained by TheWrap.

“Counsel for the plaintiffs have informed the United States that they do not oppose the request. Counsel for the Writers Guild have informed the United States that they oppose the request.”

The lawsuit in question was filed this past summer by William Morris Endeavor, Creative Artists Agency, and United Talent Agency, who argue that the guild is participating in an “illegal boycott” by having thousands of its writers terminate their representation in order to pressure the agencies to eliminate packaging fees. The WGA argues that antitrust laws preventing illegal boycotts do not apply to them, citing labor laws that allow for unions to improve their working conditions through self-organizing.

But in a legal brief filed Tuesday, November 26, the DOJ argued that use of labor exemptions in this case is “not so facile” as the WGA membership’s mass termination of agency representation included TV showrunners who can hold other roles on a project, most commonly as a producer.

“While any construction of the labor exemptions must allow unions to restrict competition in labor markets in pursuit of legitimate labor law goals, courts must also be careful to circumscribe the application of these exemptions lest unions be ‘giv[en] free rein to extend their substantial economic power into markets for goods and services other than labor.’”

WGA West President David A. Goodman denounced the DOJ’s decision to involve itself in its ongoing legal battle with agencies, connecting Delrahim to President Donald Trump, whom Delrahim publicly supported in the 2016 election and who appointed him as Assistant AG.

“It’s not surprising that Trump’s Justice Department has filed a brief designed to weaken a labor union’s effort to protect its members and eliminate conflicts of interest by talent agencies,” Goodman wrote. “The agencies’ antitrust claims are contrary to Supreme Court precedent, and we remain confident that the court will dismiss them.”

Last week, Delrahim got himself involved in another Hollywood matter, announcing that the DOJ would seek to repeal the 1948 Paramount consent decrees, a landmark Supreme Court ruling that forced Hollywood studios to give up their ownership of theater chains.

Full Content: The Wrap, Forbes

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