Sept. 22, 2014
Looks like the producers of the brand-new syndicated show from the bench could end up in front of a judge themselves. Michael Eisner and his Tornante Company were sued today in a breach-of-contract and fraud compliant along with co-defendants Trifecta Entertainment and its CEO Hank Cohen for pushing a longtime legal show director off the Judge Faith series he claims to have helped create.
“Had Defendants not breached their contract with Jerry Kupcinet, he would have received substantial fees as both an executive producer and director of Judge Faith,” say Kupcinet's lawyers in the LA Superior Court filing today (read it here). “Furthermore, neither Jerry Kupcinet nor Jerry Kupcinet Productions has received any compensation for their three months of work on the pilot or for the beneficial agreements that Jerry Kupcinet put together for Judge Faith,” the 18-page complaint adds. In his request for a jury trial, the longtime Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown director is seeking a variety of unspecified damages and that the defendants hand over any money they've made off the new syndicated show
Timing being everything in Hollywood, the filing comes on the very day that the new arbitration show starring former Manhattan D.A. Prosecutor Faith Jenkins debuted in syndication. The show is produced by the former Disney CEO's Tornante and Trifecta, with the Emmy-winning Kupcinet or his production company appearing nowhere in the credits.
Here are the facts as Kupcinet's complaint lays them out. Back in October 2013, his old pal Cohen asked Kupcinet to put together a new show called Judge Faith. Kupcinet started work right away on a pilot and pulled a lot of favors from his experience over the decades on Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown. If Judge Faith got a syndication deal, Kupcinet was assured he would direct and exec produce the show. All seemed to be going well until the oral contract became one on paper. “Jerry Kupcinet was fraudulently induced to enter into and execute the written agreement when he was presented with a copy of the agreement by Defendant Trifecta Entertainment while at the office signing checks on behalf of all involved for the production of the pilot for Judge Faith,” says today's filing. “When he was presented with the written agreement, Defendant Trifecta Entertainment told him that the new agreement was only to show that Defendant Trifecta Entertainment owned Judge Faith.”
Still things moved ahead.
Then, based on the pilot, Eisner's Tornante took Faith on with funding for up to 150 episodes and helped it get that syndication deal. There was a meeting with Eisner where everything seemed to go great, and Kupcinet was left with the distinct impression that he would be a big part of Judge Faith. Then things went bad.
“On May 29, 2014 … Kupcinet was told by Defendant Cohen that he would no longer be a part of Judge Faith because Defendant Eisner, (and therefore Defendant Tornante Company), wanted him out,” the complaint states. “Based on information and belief, Defendants Eisner and Tornante Company insisted that Jerry Kupcinet and Jerry Kupcinet Productions be excluded from participating as either a director or executive producer in any further episodes of Judge Faith.” In its claim of intentional interference with a contractual relationship, the complaint alleges that Eisner and company knew of the oral agreement between Cohen and Kupcinet and intentionally pushed the latter aside.
And that cost Kupcinet. So, now it goes before a judge – a real judge
Neville Johnson, Douglas Johnson and Alyson Decker of Beverly Hills firm Johnson & Johnson represent Kupcinet