Access to Sagansky documents denied in suit

Efforts to obtain documents pertaining to Jeff Sagansky’s move from TriStar to CBS were derailed late Monday in writer/producer Philip DeGuere’s ongoing suit against CBS, Columbia Pictures and the law firm of Ziffren, Brittenham & Branca.

Judge Peter S. Smith, acting as a pre-trial referee, quashed efforts by DeGuere’s attorney, Joseph Yanny, to obtain in-house correspondence regarding Sagansky’s move, which Yanny has charged was related to the cancellation of DeGuere’s TV pilot “Triangle.”

DeGuere was originally signed by CBS in June 1984 to work on the revived “The Twilight Zone” series. The series was canceled in October 1986 after only nine of 22 episodes were produced.

In his suit, DeGuere claims that his attorney–the Ziffren Brittenham law firm–committed fraud when they did not tell him that they also represented Columbia Pictures Television.

Instead, according to DeGuere’s suit, the Ziffren attorneys advised DeGuere not to pursue $ 900,000 that CBS allegedly owed him over “Twilight” in return for creative control in a Columbia series titled “Triangle.” He was never given that control, however, and CBS eventually only ordered the pilot.

On Monday, Yanny told Judge Smith he believed that in an effort to lure Sagansky to CBS, studio heads devised a scheme to funnel network monies to Columbia to pay off the remainder of Sagansky’s contract with TriStar.

It was DeGuere’s “Triangle” deal, which included CBS paying up to $ 2 million in cancellation costs on the series, that provided the avenue for the transfer of monies, Yanny alleged.

Yet Smith, acting only as an advisory to the Superior Court, said that Yanny had not sufficiently proven claims of any wrongdoing on the part of CBS, Columbia or Ziffren, Brittenham & Branca.

He instead called Yanny’s legal challenges “burdensome” and “over-broad.”

“You’re using a shotgun instead of a rifle here,” he told Yanny, referring to the lawyer’s attempts to gain copies of all documents related to both series and to Sagansky’s move.

Yanny quickly retorted, “It’s hard to use a rifle when they (CBS and Columbia) keep throwing up the smokescreen.”

Instead, Smith ruled that Yanny and his client will only be allowed to see studio documents relating to “Triangle” and “The Twilight Zone” series, but not any pertaining to Sagansky’s move.

Even so, Yanny said he is confident that some of those documents will “bear out” his charges.

While attorneys for CBS and Columbia had no comment, sources at CBS said this was clearly a victory for the studio and network.

Yanny, meanwhile, said he would seek to overturn some of Smith’s advisory rulings as the case moves forward.

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