CBS Responds to Lawsuit Over Royalties Dispute for Judge Judy

On Friday, April 15, 2016, attorneys for television-giant CBS and its entertainment parent company, Big Ticket Entertainment, responded to a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court back in March by a talent agent claiming entitlement to disgorged profits and royalties from the largely successful Judge Judy television program. The complaint, which was filed by agent Richard Lawrence on behalf of his current company, Rebel Entertainment, alleges that it represented two executive producers of the “Judge Judy” program who developed the idea of the “real” no-nonsense courtroom show back in the mid-1990s, stating also that CBS expressly breached the contract between the talent agency and the television company in 2010 when it ceased making royalty payments due to star Judge Judy Sheindlin’s exorbitant salary of $47 million a year. Claiming that such an excessive salary is completely antagonistic to the compensations paid to similar network-TV personalities, directly causing CBS to fall beneath a profit margin for the last few years, Rebel Entertainment is also seeking royalties for fellow courtroom program “Hot Bench,” arguing it is an indirect Judge Judy spinoff.

In its filed answer on Friday, CBS fired back at Rebel and its representative agent Lawrence, arguing that the plaintiffs are not entitled to any money because Lawrence and his now defunct agency Abrams Rubaloff & Lawrence, predecessor in interest to Rebel Entertainment, fraudulently misrepresented themselves for the last two decades, improperly collecting royalty payments up through 2010 in the amount of $17 million. This money, CBS argues, was not actually owed to Lawrence or Rebel because the two producers they claim to have represented at Judge Judy’s inception, Sandi Spreckman and Kaye Switzer, were terminated during the first year the show was on the air. Not having renegotiated any contract with CBS or Big Ticket Entertainment since the mid-90s, the answer responds, Lawrence and Rebel have improvidently held themselves out to be the representative agency of two producers who have not been with the show in almost twenty years, both of whom were let go long before CBS started developing Hot Bench. As well, the response pleading requests that any money found to be owed plaintiffs as a result of breach of contract, which CBS does not concede there was, should be offset by the already paid out $17 million.

Judge Judy herself responded to last month’s complaint in her typically sharp, trenchant manner she is known for, stating that she “met Mr. Lawrence for two hours some [twenty one] years ago… translat[ing] into $8.5 million an hour for Mr. Lawrence. Not a bad payday. Now complaining about not getting enough money, that’s real chutzpah.”

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