Judge clears way to Golden Globes appeal

Procedural move lets HFPA pursue options on first half of case while second part advances

A federal judge made a procedural ruling Monday that will allow the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. to immediately appeal his earlier decision that sided with Dick Clark Prods. over rights to the Golden Globes.

U.S. District Judge Howard Matz said he would enter his judgment from the first phase of the case. He ruled in April that DCP had the rights to produce the Globes as long as the company landed a broadcast deal with NBC. But that was only the first phase of the litigation, and without his procedural move, called an “entry of judgment,” the HFPA would have had to wait until the second part of the case was finished before the org could appeal.

The second phase has to do with a series of issues including accounting, digital rights and pre-show rights that are not considered central to the litigation, as opposed to the question of whether DCP essentially had rights to the telecast potentially in perpetuity.

Matz said he would put that second part of the case on hold while HFPA pursues the appeal, something that may save the press org substantial legal fees.

“Many of the claims (of the second phase) will evaporate if the 9th Circuit rules in our favor,” the HFPA’s lead attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, said in court.

DCP’s legal team, led by Martin Katz, did not object to the entry of judgment, but argued that the second phase should also go forward. He told Matz that a big concern was that the memories of potential witnesses could fade if discovery were put off for several years. Matz did leave open the possibility of “narrowly focused discovery” for the second phase, but called on both sides to try to resolve such concerns.

Red Zone Capital, which owns DCP, announced last month that it had hired Raine Group to explore sale options of DCP.

DCP also said in court filings that by not pursuing the second phase of the trial next, there would be a “cloud of uncertainty” over its contractual rights.

“From a practical standpoint, a stay would impede, not promote, settlement, because it would allow HFPA to keep its claims alive without incurring any expense to move the case forward,” DCP said in its filing.

The HFPA said that DCP was engaging in a “transparent attempt to impose substantial additional economic hardship on a beleaguered not-for-profit association by forcing HFPA to fight a two-front legal battle.”

Nevertheless, Matz said that there was reason for DCP to want to see what happens with the appeal. Should DCP’s team win, he said, they “will have even more leverage” in the second phase of the litigation.

The HFPA said in a statement: “We didn’t oppose their motion to appeal because we see no grounds for overturning Judge Matz’s opinion. We look forward to full resolution of the case.”