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Judge In ‘Avatar’ Plagiarism Suit Tosses Disqualification Motion

'Statement of objection' claims judge's husband served as exec producer and UPM for Fox

A judge who sided with James Cameron in a plagiarism suit over “Avatar” has refused to disqualify herself from the case.

Eric Ryder, who recently lost the suit, had sought to disqualify Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason due to her husband Paul Deason having allegedly served as an executive producer and unit production manager for Fox for the past six years. The filing alleged that the judge had not disclosed her husband’s business relationship with the studio during the proceedings.

But Bryant-Deason, in an order filed Oct. 23, concluded there were no grounds for disqualification because Fox is not a party to the litigation. She also wrote that she had told the parties that her husband was in the entertainment industry at an April 24 status conference and again during a July 2 conference call.

In an eight-page opinion, Bryant-Deason explained that her husband, Paul Deason, is a line producer who works as an independent contractor for production companies and is not an employee of Twentieth Century Fox.

“I know of no facts or circumstances which would require my disqualification or recusal in this case,” she wrote.

Bryant-Deason also wrote that the motion was not timely. “A party simply can’t wait to see what happens in a case, before deciding to investigate or assert known facts as a basic for disqualification for cause. By not filing a timely motion to disqualify, objections to the assigned judge are waived,” she said.

An attorney for Ryder said in response that it was “highly disappointing that she did not even allow an independent judge to review the issues. It’s remarkable.”

Ryder had said in his filing that the studio has a “material interest” in the outcome of the litigation. Fox produced and released “Avatar,” the highest grossing movie of all time, in 2009.

Cameron and his Fox-based Lightstorm Entertainment were sued in 2011 by Ryder, who alleged he had spent two years developing a movie at Lightstorm that became the basis for “Avatar.” Ryder said he wrote an environmentally themed movie script called “K.R.Z. 2068″ and created treatments, photos, 3D imagery and characters.

Bryant-Deason granted Cameron’s motion on Oct. 2 for summary judgment and found “Avatar” was independently created by Cameron.

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