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Judge Denies Attempt to Change Name in SAG Merger Lawsuit

Union can not be listed as SAG-AFTRA in complaint filed by members protesting merger, judge rules

(Updated, 10:00 p.m. PST)

What's in a name?

For the time being, at least, the newly rechristened Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will have to go by its former name, the Screen Actors Guild, in a court battle with members protesting its recent merger.

A U.S. district court judge denied a stipulation this week to change the name of the defendant in the suit to reflect SAG-AFTRA's new moniker. 

Unless the plaintiffs agree to refile their lawsuit listing SAG-AFTRA as the defendant, the old name will have to stand. 

Last month, the union's membership voted overwhelmingly to approve joining together with AFTRA.

Also read: SAG and AFTRA Merger Overwhelmingly Approved by Membership

Consequently, the guild had wanted the lawsuit filed by a collection of dissident members to reflect its new name and had filed a stipulation to that effect. 

"What the judge did is he told the parties that the proper way to change the name in the lawsuit was not through a stipulation, but by the plaintiffs amending the complaint,” Bob Bush, an attorney for SAG-AFTRA, told TheWrap.

David B. Casselman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The suit in question alleges that SAG's board of directors breached its fiduciary duties by failing to conduct a study detailing the effects of the proposed merger on SAG's pension and health benefits.

Among the 68 SAG members listed as plaintiffs are Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Valerie Harper, Diane Ladd, Edward Asner, Joe Bologna and Nancy Sinatra. 

In a separate order, Judge S. James Otero ruled that SAG-AFTRA had until April 25 to file a response to the suit. 

In the March ratification vote, 86 percent of the AFTRA ballots submitted were in favor of merger, while 82 percent of SAG ballots endorsed merger.

(Pamela Chelin contributed to this article)