California Procedure,  Jurisdiction

Producer’s Lawsuit Crashes

Did you ever wonder while watching the Academy Awards presentation on TV just who gets to go up on stage and receive an award as a “producer” when a film wins for best picture?  Wonder no more.  The procedure for identifying producers entitled to share in the award is succinctly explained in Yari v. Producers Guild of America, Inc., case no. B196817 (2d Dist. Mar. 25, 2008)., in which Yari runs up against the limitations on judicial review of a private organization’s decision-making processes.

Yari contended he should have received an award as a producer for the 2004 best film award winner Crash.  The selection process involves both the Guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.  The Academy generally relies on the designations made by the Guild, which are made after receiving applications from everyone who received screen credit as a producer.  The Guild did not designate Yari, and his appeals through the Guild and Academy proved fruitless.

Yari’s claim for “wrongful denial of the right of fair procedure” attempted to invoke the doctrine allowing judicial review of a private organization’s decision-making processes, but the court of appeal holds that the trial court properly sustained the demurrer as to this count.  Though Yari alleged that the Guild and Academy had great influence in the movie industry, his allegations fell short of establishing that they perform a “gatekeeping” function in the sense that they can prevent him from working in the industry or that the organizations affect the public interest in the same sense that a dental association does when it disciplines a member dentist.

This case is a nice summary of the law regarding when a private organization’s decision-making processes are — and are not — subject to judicial review.