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Roman Polanski Threatens Academy With Legal Action Over ‘Illegal Expulsion’

Filmmaker was expelled from the film academy on May 1

Roman Polanski’s attorney Harland Braun threatened legal action if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences “refuses to follow its own rules” in regards to the “illegal expulsion” of the filmmaker from the Academy.

In a letter to Academy President John Bailey dated May 8, Braun wrote, “I am writing this letter to you to avoid unnecessary litigation. Mr. Polanski has a right to go to court and require your organization to follow its own procedures, as well as California law.”

He added, “The only proper solution would be for your organization to rescind its illegal expulsion of Mr. Polanski and follow its own Standard of Conduct by giving Mr. Polanski reasonable notice of the charges against him and a fair hearing to present his position with respect to any proposed expulsion.”

At the beginning of the letter, Braun cited a May 3 correspondence sent to Polanski from the Academy, saying that “this unsigned letter was the only notice that Mr. Polanski was given that he was expelled from the Academy.”

Polanski and Bill Cosby were expelled from the Academy on May 1 in accordance with the organization’s Standard of Conduct, and Polanski had said he felt “blindsided” by the decision. 

“We plan to ask the Academy to follow its own rules which is to give Roman 10 days notice to present his side,” Polanski’s attorney Harland Braun said in a statement to TheWrap. “We were prepared but were blindsided by their violation of their own standards. What did the 56 members review??”

However, the Academy exercised a clause in its bylaws allowing the 54-person Board of Governors to expel any member “for cause” with a two-thirds vote. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, the board was motivated in part by the fact that both Cosby and Polanski had been convicted of sexually related crimes in U.S. courts.

Asked about whether the Academy had followed the due-process procedures outlined in the updated grievances process announced in January, a spokesperson cited the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, Section 8.

“The Board of Governors retains its independent duty and authority as outlined in the bylaws to address and take action on any matter, whether submitted by the process outlined above or not, related to a member’s status and to enforce the Academy’s Standards of Conduct,” reads the section. In other words, the board retains the right to step in and discipline members regardless of whether a formal grievance process has been triggered.

In addition, the Academy bylaws state: “any member of the Academy may be suspended or expelled for cause by the Board of Governors. Expulsion or suspension as herein provided for shall require the affirmative vote of not less than two-thirds of all the Governors.”

Polanski was expelled 15 years after his film “The Pianist” took home Oscars for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor at the 75th Academy Awards. The film was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to “Chicago.”

Polanski was arrested and charged with raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977. He pled guilty and was imprisoned for 42 days, after which he was released and put on probation as part of a plea bargain. When Polanski learned that a judge was planning to revoke the plea deal, the director fled Paris before the sentencing.

A spokesperson for the Academy has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.