A former talent manager is hoping to convince the California Supreme Court to block enforcement of the state’s Talent Agencies Act.
Rick Siegel, formerly of Marathon Entertainment, says that managers ought to have the right to get jobs for clients. But the state Labor Commission and courts have ruled that under the law, only talent agents can do that.
“I’m hoping that they recognize that the Talent Agencies Act doesn’t give courts or the labor commission the authority to penalize,” Siegel (left) told TheWrap Tuesday.
He filed a petition for review to the California Supreme Court on Oct. 31.
Siegel’s case stretches back to 2002, when he was a talent manager and sued three of his clients for not paying him.
The clients responded by saying they didn’t have to pay him – that because he was a manager, not an agent, he wasn’t authorized to get them jobs. As a consequence, they argued, they didn’t owe him commissions.
Siegel settled with two of the clients and lost a case against the other.
And he’s been fighting ever since.
His fight now is against his former lawyers, whom he is suing for malpractice. He says if the law firm of Fox & Spillane had raised issues about the Talent Agencies Act, he would have won all three cases.
Lawyers Gerard P. Fox and Jay Spillane have since moved on to other firms, but Fox told TheWrap that he and Spillane vigorously represented Siegel.
“He has lost every attempt … in his suits against us,” Fox said. “He has been absolutely slam-dunked and crushed.”
Fox said that the issue about the Talent Agencies Act is a distraction.
As part of that lawsuit, however, Siegel has asked the California Supreme Court to review the Talent Agencies Act.
“Had they raised those arguments, I would have won, and I would have been able to get 100 percent of my monies from my three clients,” he said.
Siegel’s argument has to do with the wording of the law.
Under California statute, “no person shall engage in or carry on the occupation of a talent agency without first procuring a license … from the Labor Commissioner.”
The law says that a talent agency is a person or company that “engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising or attempting to procure employment or engagements for an artist or artists.”
Managers don’t have such licenses.
But Siegel notes that nothing in the law includes mention of a penalty. As a consequence, he insists, it is unenforceable.
Erika Monterroza, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Industrial Relations, told TheWrap that agents – like insurance brokers, doctors and contractors – need licenses.”
“It’s part of being in the world that we are living within the law,” she said. “It’s pretty cut-and-dried.”
The California Supreme Court is not required to review the case, so Siegel has enlisted a number of talent managers and organizations to support him in his quest.
He has gotten 183 letters from 143 companies.
Among his supporters, the National Conference of Personal Managers and the Talent Managers Association.
Phil Brock, president of the Talent Managers Association, told TheWrap that he is not taking sides in Siegel’s malpractice suit, but that he would like the Supreme Court to review the Talent Agencies Act.
“What we’ve done is file a statement supporting the review,” Brock (right) said. “The bottom line is really simple in this case: Either the Supreme Court denies the appeal and says, ‘We’re not going to review it,” in which case the TAA is absolutely the supreme law and Marathon Entertainment was wrong, or they look at it and say, ‘Marathon may have a case.’”
If the court decides to take the case – and rules that the Labor Commission can, in fact, penalize managers who procure work for their clients, “then it’s probably up to the Managers Association … to convince the Legislature that the law needs to be changed.”
The case is Marathon Entertainment, Inc. and Rick Siegel vs Fox & Spillane LLP, Gerard P. Fox and Jay Spillane.