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Showbiz Managers Get Another Shot at Challenging Talent Agencies Act

A federal appellate court is giving new life to an effort by an organization of talent managers to challenge the California Talent Agencies Act, which prohibits them from procuring employment for clients.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday vacated a lower court ruling that dismissed the effort by the National Conference of Personal Managers.

A three-judge panel ruled that U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson had to first determine jurisdiction and standing issues before deciding the case on the merits.

Pregerson dismissed the talent managers’ lawsuit in 2013, contending that courts have already established what “procuring” means. The National Conference of Personal Managers claimed, among other things, that the state law banning unlicensed managers from “procuring” employment for clients was “unconstitutionally vague.”

The appellate court found that Pregerson, while deciding the case on the merits, failed to fully resolve procedural issues.

It’s unclear if this ruling will change the outcome of the case. Pregerson found that Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, two of the defendants, “likely” had sovereign immunity, and that the personal managers organization likely had standing. He also found that the State Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su was likely an appropriate party to sue. But the appellate court said that it was up to the lower court to make “definite findings.”

Clinton Ford Billups Jr., the organization’s president, said that the group “looks forward to returning to the district court to protect the civil rights of personal managers nationwide.”

Billups has said that personal managers have lost “in excess of” $500 million in compensation because the California Labor Commissioner has ordered disgorgement or the managers have been forced to settle claims. In those cases, clients have accused their personal managers of trying to procure employment without a talent agency license.

The org is represented by Stephen F. Rohde in its appellate case, and lead counsels Ryan Fowler, Christopher Good and William Ferguson of Fowler & Good.

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