Judge tosses managers’ suit

Dismisses effort by talent managers to strike down a California law

A federal judge has dismissed an effort by talent managers to strike down a California law that prohibits them from procuring employment for their clients.

U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson on Tuesday threw out a suit challenging the state’s Talent Agencies Act that was filed by the National Conference of Personal Managers, claiming, among other things, that the state’s ban on unlicensed manmanagers from “procuring” employment was “unconstitutionally vague.”

But Pregerson said courts have already have sufficiently established what “procuring” means, noting it is contained in “numerous California statutes” that have not been challenged.

In a 2008 decision, the California Supreme Court ruled that the Talent Agencies Act does apply to personal managers and they may not recover fees from clients if they procured work for them. The case stemmed from a case involving Rosa Blasi, an actress on the TV show “Strong Medicine.” After her management firm, Marathon Entertainment, sought unpaid commissions, she filed a petition with the state Labor Commissioner who sided with her and voided the management contract.

Pregerson also rejected a claim brought by personal managers that the state statute creates a situation of “involuntary servitude” because they can be denied a commission.

“Plaintiffs are incorrect,” Pregerson wrote. “Not being compensated for work performed does not inevitably make that work involuntary servitude. Plaintiff’s members have choices.”

He also rejected claims that the Talent Agencies Act violated the Commerce Clause, the Contracts Clause and the First Amendment. Of the latter, he wrote the state statute “protects conduct, not speech. It does not limit the speech of a personal manager; it limits the personal manager’s ability to enforce contractual obligations when that person engages in the conduct of procuring employment.”

The attorney representing the talent managers, Chris Good, could not immediately be reached. But Rick Siegel, whose Marathon Entertainment once represented Blasi and challenged the state Labor Commission’s actions, said the federal decision avoiding key issues, including due process claims. “It starts with the question of how can they do this without giving notice” of potential sanctions to personal managers.”

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